Aon Health Solutions award for managing health at workOn 1 Dec 2003 in Personnel Today Theshortlisted candidates for this year’s award for managing health at work havereduced absenteeism, improved morale and made healthy changes in workplacecultureOccupational Health’s sister publication Personnel Today hosts an annualawards scheme that recognises innovation and achievement in people management. The award for managing health at work recognises organisations that havebeen proactive in improving employee health. The judge, Dr Noel McElearney, (see below) was looking for a clearexplanation of what action has been taken, who was involved, how and why. All three shortlisted candidates have brought positive benefits to theirorganisations. Category judgeBOXTEXT: Dr Noel McElearney is aconsultant occupational physician with a long track record in blue-chiporganisations. He has worked for Guinness, British Airways, the WellcomeFoundation and Marks & Spencer. He was appointed director of group health, safety andenvironment at Scottish and Newcastle in 1999, holds fellowships of theFaculties of Occupational Medicine of the Royal Colleges of Physicians inLondon and Dublin, and has an MA in occupational health.He is a past president of the Society of Occupational Medicineand is chairman of its education panel.Standard Life HealthcareThe 800 staff at Standard Life Healthcare’s offices in Guildford andStockport are becoming significantly healthier thanks to a raft of initiativesput into place by the company’s 14-strong HR and OH department. Since early 1999, the company, which is the UK’s fourth largest privatemedical insurer, has been actively promoting the health and well-being of itsstaff through initiatives such as coffee mornings and quarterly briefings. Butearly last year it decided to up the ante by buying in an online assessmenttool from healthcare company Vielife for around £30,000 to £40,000. “We have been the first company to use the scores, anonymisedobviously, to give us an aggregate look at the health of our company,”explains head of HR Vince Mewett. The tool looks at stress, sleep and nutritional and physical health. Staff wereencouraged to fill it in with incentives such as raffle tickets and prizes,with 500 employees taking part in the first round. “We found we had an index of 49 out of 100 which was about average. ButI felt we needed to get a higher score and one of the things that came outclearly was that staff were concerned about their nutritional balance,”says Mewett. In response, the company organised initiatives, including a healthfair and nutritional drop-in seminars where staff could have their weight,height, body fat and body mass index checked. The staff restaurant was overhauled, with more healthy food offered at lowerprices and poster campaigns promoted the “five a day” message onfruit and vegetables. Employees were also given free water bottles to encouragethem to increase their water intake during the day. After six months, at the end of 2002, the survey was carried out again andthe index had risen from 49 to 52 from 300 respondents. But of the 200 who hadtaken part in the previous survey, the score had gone up to 54 and onnutritional issues the score had gone up by 35 per cent. Staff turnover at the Guildford office is now around 9 per cent and 6 percent at Stockport, having once been more than 20 per cent, although Mewett iskeen to stress this is not all down to the current programme. The company has also started piloting on-site massage, with employees paying£5 for a 20-minute session. The staff have implemented twice-weekly evening gymsessions, with the company making a conference room available for their use. Looking forward, Mewett is keen to encourage wider health and fitnessinitiatives beyond simply subsidising gym membership, particularly whereinitiatives could fit into the company’s corporate social responsibilityagenda. He would like to organise, for instance, a 10K run for charity or, forthe less energetic, a “corporate ramble”. The company is alsoplanning to extend stress awareness training to a wider range of employees. “This had much more of an occupational health angle to it than trainingor personnel, and our health and safety people have been closelyinvolved,” explains Mewett. “We have just carried out a third survey and we are now up to 54points, so we are continuing to improve. We sometimes bring round a cake trolleyand it’s interesting that we have to make sure we have more fruit on it nowbecause it’s more popular than the cake,” adds Mewett. Severn Trent Water”Manual handling is our bigissue. We wanted to start out with, if you had a clean sheet, what would youdo?,” says Neil Budworth, principal safety adviser with Severn Trent Water.The organisation, with 4,500 staff and a huge network of pipes,1,000 sewage and 20 water treatment works to manage and maintain, hadtraditionally taught manual handling techniques in a classroom setting.”But that is not what happens in reality,” stresses Budworth.”What happens is that you are in a hole covered in mud and it is slipperyand muddy. We recognised that we needed to do training on site,” heexplains.The solution, since September last year, has been to call in aspecialist team of “body mechanics” to look at the common situationsthat cause injuries and then train people, on site, accordingly. “Thesetrainers are charismatic, and we have seen a dramatic drop in accidents,”says Budworth.Beforehand, the accident rate for manual handling incidents wasaround 65 instances a year. Since the training began it has dropped to the low30s. Overall, the company has made savings of £8,200 based on days lost in onecounty over a six-month period. To ensure people are constantly reminded about the training,coaching and mentoring programmes have been put into place to observe andrefresh people at work.Getting people back to work more quickly after an accident orinjury is also a priority. When an injury is reported, a supervisor triggers animmediate referral process to the OH department, outsourced to contractorPrivate Health Care. If appropriate, a referral to the physiotherapist is thenauthorised.”The quicker they can be referred to a physio the better.We make sure we can get people referred for backs, necks or whatever it is. Wedo it even if it is not work-related because our view is that they will stillbe off work and that does not help us,” says Budworth.One of the difficulties has been getting a consistent messageout to employees. “Their first thought is ‘how am I going to cover forthat person’, and they often forget to refer,” he admits. Budworth makes apoint of speaking to line managers and supervisors whenever he can to reinforcethe message that proper support mechanisms are now in place.There are also issues of trying to rehabilitate workers tooquickly or putting them back into the situation or working environment thatcaused the injury in the first place, he stresses. “It’s about progressiveintegration. It may be restricting what they can lift or what they can do. It’sabout taking things a few days at a time, but the important thing is that theyare still in the social loop. The OH department will make recommendations thatcan be adopted by the line managers,” argues Budworth.Similarly, the organisation has now overhauled its buyingprocesses to ensure that if a piece of kit is being bought, it goes through apanel that includes ergonomists. “They will assess anything new coming in.How many people can lift it or should it only be lifted by mechanical lift, forinstance,” Budworth explains.As part of this, the company drafted in a masters student overthe summer to work out how best to lift manhole covers. “If they’re old ordirty and have been driven over for years, they can be very difficult to lift.But some of the kit for lifting them is heavier than the cover,” he says.Finally, the company has been looking closely at hand-armvibration syndrome. Traditionally HAVS was checked through verbalquestionnaires but this was hugely subjective and variable. After all, thepeople answering the questions often felt their livelihood was at stake. Now Severn Trent has bought in an electronic system that checksthe hands for any damage or loss of function. An HAVS clinic has also beendeveloped through Private Health Care.West Bromwich Building SocietyWest Bromwich Building Society wasformed 154 years ago, making it one of the UK’s oldest building societies, andthe country’s ninth largest, with 800 staff in 51 branches.It had offered staff private medical insurance for many years,but again, its initiatives were often not well promoted and take-up wasgenerally low.This changed with the arrival of people support officer JulieMalpass three years ago, who decided to have a look at what benefits thecompany offered and what could be done better in terms of staff health. One of the first changes was the launch in early 2000 of ahealth awareness programme, including promoting corporate membership of localFitness First and David Lloyd Leisure gyms.A dedicated OH department of both GPs and nurses has also beenintroduced, on a contract basis, carrying out medicals and, at a cost £2,500 ayear, flu vaccinations. Take-up of the vaccinations has been around 20 per centa year. “We had so many e-mails about it that we have been able toput forward a business case for doing it again this year. This will be thefourth year running we have run it, and we had 90 responses in the first hourand a half of publicising it,” says Malpass.Health assessments for height, weight, body mass, vision, lungfunction and urine are carried out by a nurse in a mobile clinic.Other initiatives included offering the services of analternative therapist, with staff paying around £7 for the first session and£12 per half hour after that. “It is very, very popular. The therapistoffers aromatherapy, reflexology and Indian head massage. It is a bit of aluxury being able to get a massage in your workplace, and it is fantastic as ade-stressor,” says Malpass.The society also undertook a review of its sickness absenceprocedures and policies, including making managers and employers much moreaware of the policy and how it worked and putting in better tracking andmonitoring systems. “This was particularly important for newer managers whohad never dealt with these things before,” explains Malpass. “Whilewe knew we would probably initially see an increase, because of improvedreporting, at least we knew people would have the tools to know how to reportabsence. Most people, for instance, felt that if a doctor’s note had beenissued, they could not question it.”There was a particular focus on return-to-work interviews andgiving managers the skills to ask the right sort of questions when dealing overthe phone with employees who had called in sick. Sickness absence at the firm had been running at around sixdays per employee per year – around the industry average – but still the firmfelt it could be managing its absence and sickness better. Rates are now downto fewer than four days a year.To help tackle issues particularly surrounding stress, anemployee assistance programme has been introduced, including a counsellinghelpline. The line takes some 11 calls a quarter, estimates Malpass. “Buteven if you get just one call it’s worth it,” she adds.Just as important is making sure staff know of all the benefitson offer. The office intranet as its main tool of communication in this area,supplemented by e-mail alerts, newsletters and group magazines.For the future, Malpass says she is keen to expand thealternative therapist services on offer, and is looking to bring in achiropractor and alternative therapies. “We have just done a day’s trialof sports massage. We have a cricket, football and netball team so there can bea great deal of sporting injuries.” Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.