Encourage teamwork to help workers reach their health goals

Many employers understand the importance of physical exercise as a way to reduce worker injuries and illness, but some may not know how to implement a fitness regime into the workplace. If the proper precautions are taken, employers can help employees get healthy on the job. However, employers may need to do a bit more than just instituting a fitness initiative or wellness program to ensure workers see results. Teamwork and support from co-workers are important for employees to achieve their health targets. Sharing a common goal can assist staff in getting fit.

Focus on an achievable goal 
According to a study from the Interacting Minds Centre (IMC) at Aarhus University in Denmark, a team will see stronger results if they share a clearly defined mission. Cooperation was found to increase when team members supported each other and understood what they were setting out to accomplish. The study noted trust was a vital component to team goal achievement.

Panos Mitkidis, a post-doctoral scholar at the university, said no matter the profession or activity, a team’s level of collaboration can make a difference.

“Cooperation is a prerequisite for most types of human relations from love to business, and from everyday interactions to more complicated activities,” Mitkidis said.

Encouragement from other people is important when a person is trying to get healthy, and businesses across the country have begun to institute workplace fitness programs to help workers support each other.

The Baltimore Sun newspaper reported thousands of federal workers participate three times a week in a wellness initiative created to help lower healthcare costs and increase productivity. Because staff members work out together in a supportive environment, they are better able to focus on their well-being goals and encourage each other. According to The New York Times, many employers are implementing fitness programs that not only assist workers in achieving their health goals, but take place right in the office. For example, groups of employees at Datalogix in Colorado run up and down the stairs together or swing kettlebells in the hallways. Datalogix employees also organized a weight-loss competition as a way to ramp up their fitness routines.

Take precautions to prevent injury 
It is essential that any workplace fitness or well-being initiative ensures workers do not get hurt while exercising. The New York Times recommended all participating staff members to sign a liability waver before beginning a workplace exercise routine and all trainers to be certified and be able to provide first aid. Even under professional supervision, workers can get hurt, so it is important that a fitness test is conducted before workers adopt a vigorous exercise routine to reduce the likelihood of injury. Employers also may want to consider ensuring a nutritionist is available to make sure workers are not losing weight too fast, which can lead to adverse health effects such as low blood pressure.

Employers can encourage employees to get healthy without instituting a complete wellness program by organizing a fitness day or distributing exercise materials. Creating a wellness event can encourage healthy habits among staff and help workers support each other in their fitness efforts.

NIOSH announces new nanomaterial exposure levels

Nanomaterials carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and carbon nanofibers (CNFs) can be harmful for workers in the manufacturing industry. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently revised its CNT and CNF exposure recommendations to help employers prevent work-related lung injuries among staff.

CNTs and CNFs can cause occupational illness in workers who are exposed to them during the production of many types of materials, most notably plastics and electronics. The nanomaterials cannot be seen by the naked eye, and specific precautions must be taken to prevent workers from inhaling or coming in contact with the particles. Workers who are exposed to the nanomaterials for a long period of time may develop adverse health effects, such as pneumoconiosis and lung fibrosis due to the accumulation of particles in the respiratory system.

The guidelines were published in the Current Intelligence Bulletin and are based on NIOSH laboratory findings as well as manufacturing observations. NIOSH recommended employers reduce worker exposure to the airborne chemical to the lowest concentration that can be measured, or 1 microgram per cubic meter of air. Previous recommendations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) allowed general industry and shipyards to expose workers to no more than 15 micrograms per cubic meter on a time-weighted average.

NIOSH suggested businesses provide proper training for all workers on safe handling and disposal of the chemicals. Educating workers on machine operation and occupational safety is crucial to protecting employees from inhaling the dangerous nanomaterials. NIOSH advised employers to regularly monitor worker health and screen for any signs of respiratory disease to determine if additional steps need to be taken to reduce exposure.

Do’s and don’ts of creating a safety committee

Kearin Kasper mug shotBy Kearin Kasper
SCF Arizona Loss Control Manager
(This is a three-part series exploring the merits of having a safety committee. PREVIOUS POST: Part 1 — Outlining the safety committee’s purpose, objectives and roles. TODAY: Part 2 — How to form a safety committee. Next: Part 3 — Critical elements to success. This posting is general information only; to read our disclaimer, click here.)

We’ve taken a look at the basic role and purpose of forming a safety committee. Now let’s look at the do’s and don’ts of creating one.

Do:

1)  Gain executive commitment. Management commitment provides the motivating force and resources for organizing and controlling activities within the organization. Safety culture must align with the business culture. Management will outline the authority level given to the safety committee.

2)  Members must be a combination of employees from various levels within the organization. All departments and/or functions should be represented. Leadership and make-up of the committee should rotate annually to provide “fresh” eyes. One suggestion: having two co-chairs who act as facilitators means they can alternate roles month to month. Are members volunteers, recommended by their supervisors/co-workers, or assigned? Members that are volunteers can be more motivated than those that are assigned to the task. An interview process to make sure members are a good match is recommended.  Best practices call for a pre-established meeting agenda with a specific scribe taking minutes that will be documented and forwarded to leadership. Click here for a suggested “Safety Committee Minutes” form.

3)  Make attendance mandatory with penalty of removal for repeated absences.

4)  Provide position descriptions for the general members to clarify roles and responsibilities.

Don’t:

1)  Get involved in disciplinary matters. Issues with safety compliance are the responsibilities of supervisors and human resources.

2)  Waste company time and resources. Be realistic and keep profitable outcomes that impact bottom-line cost savings as a major focus to improving safety

3)  Turn into “safety cops. While some can become overzealous, most employees don’t like to be enforcers. Don’t play the blame game

4)  Make it a complaint session. Often committee members use this forum to discuss non-safety issues just because other management is present.

Next up: Part 3 – Critical elements to success