Report Summary: Occupational Health – The Value Proposition

We’ve read and digested a new report by the Society for Occupational Medicine discussing the value proposition of occupational health for employers and have a summary of its main points that relate to our work as occupational physiotherapists below.

Introduction

Health problems among the working population are having a significant socio-economic impact. Population surveys estimate that 131 million days were lost due to sickness absences in the UK in 2013. Minor illnesses were the most common reason given for these illnesses and accounted for 27.4 million of these days whilst the greatest number of days were due to musculoskeletal problems (30.6 million). This is ample evidence to support the inclusion of occupational health for employees. Other main points addressed in the report include;

1. How is Occupational Health Support Accessed?

In relation to how occupational services are accessed, the report states:

  • Access to occupational health services are restricted to employees of large companies only, but SMEs are by far and away the biggest employers, so these employees aren’t getting the benefits of these services

Supporting Statistics

Only a minority of the UK workforce can access a comprehensive occupational health service. A telephone survey of 2,250 British employers in all sectors of the British economy enquiring about broad health and wellbeing provision reported that 13% of employers provided access to occupational health services to employees in the last year.

2. How is Occupational Health Support Defined?

A telephone survey of 4,950 UK employers examining specifically the use of occupational health support defined comprehensive occupational health support as; hazard identification, risk management, provision of information modifying work activities, providing training on occupational health-related issues, measuring workplace hazards, and monitoring trends in health.

Using this definition, only 3% of UK employers provided access to comprehensive occupational health services. Both surveys reported that more large organisations provide access than small companies too. The range of services was also determined by legislative or statutory requirements within each industry sector.

3. How is the Business Case Made for Occupational Health Support?

“The business case for investing in occupational health within an organisation must be transparent and compelling. The benefits are not restricted to financial reasons and the quality of return on investment economic evaluations are low. The business “value” of high absence needs to be determined by each company rather than just looking at pure financials”.

  • Compelling business reasons for investing in occupational health should include:
    • Legal – the legal obligation employers have for the safety and welfare of their employees. This includes compliance with statutory regulation including The Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. As part of this legislation, employers are required to conduct health assessments where occupational health staff can advise on the specific needs of employees and arrange or provide suitable programmes.
    • Moral – Moral reasons for implementing an occupational health plan have usually been taken by smaller companies that know their staff intimately and want to provide a good workplace for them. But increasingly, corporate social responsibility has led larger employers to undertake a moral duty to look after their staff.
    • Financial – sickness absence is estimated to cost UK businesses £28.8 billion each year; an overall median cost of £554 per employee, and anywhere between 2-16% of payroll. Yet when surveyed only half of employers thought that occupational health provided a return on investment. However when examined closely, the costs provide a compelling case for considering occupational health investment.

Below is a table of tangible and intangible costs associated with poor occupational health:

Conclusion

Increasingly employees, customers, shareholders and investors expect employers to demonstrate high standards of corporate social responsibility and to integrate social, ethical and environmental concerns into business operations. Social concerns include employee health and wellbeing; consequently occupational health can play a major role in employers’ corporate social responsibility programmes. In summary:

  • Protecting and promoting employee health is integral to corporate social responsibility
  • Employees think employers should be more proactive in providing workplace health interventions
  • Work-related ill health is a significant cost to individuals, employers and the taxpayer
  • Employer paid interventions may save more money at a societal level (health and social care)

Download the full report here.

career-types

HSE Plans for Improving Workplace Health in 2017

Following on from our recent blog discussing the government’s new emphasis on health as a result of its comprehensive whitepaper, we thought we’d follow up with news on what the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is planning to do to further these aims throughout the rest of 2017.

There are four main subsets of the ongoing strategy as published on the HSE website. We will explain each below:

Helping Great Britain Work Well

This first initiative is working to improve and expand on the already impressive work health and safety record of the UK. Increasing productivity is also a major focus. There are six main subsets to this strategy;

  1. Acting together: Promoting broader ownership of health and safety in Great Britain
  2. Tackling ill health: Highlighting and tackling the costs of work-related ill health
  3. Managing risk well: Simplifying risk management and helping business to grow
  4. Supporting small employers: Giving SMEs simple advice so that they know what they have to do
  5. Keeping page with change: Anticipating and tackling new health and safety challenges
  6. Sharing our success: Promoting the benefits of Great Britain’s world-class health and safety system

HSE Business Plan 2017/18

This second agenda discusses the HSE’s main business plan. In it, the challenge of improving on an already excellent health and safety record whilst adapting to the changing world around us is detailed. Specific priorities mentioned as part of this plan include;

  • Capitalising on enthusiasm and collaboration toward health and safety
  • Ensuring the regulatory framework remains effective
  • Securing effective risk management and control
  • Reducing the likelihood of low frequency, high impact, catastrophic incidents
  • Emphasising ill-health with a focus on respiratory diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, occupational stress and mental health
  • Ensuring value for money by reducing reliance on government funding
  • Bringing together effective collaboration and expertise across HSE

Sector Plans

This third plan illustrates how Great Britain’s workplaces have been split into 19 sectors based on industry type and risk profiles. The actions for each sector include;

  • Leading and engaging with others to improve health and safety
  • Providing an effective regulatory framework
  • Securing effective management and control of risk
  • Reducing the likelihood of low-frequency, high-impact catastrophic incidents

Health and Work Strategy Plans

Lastly, priorities in the area of health and work strategy plans include work-related stress, musculoskeletal disorders and occupational lung disease.

To this end;

  1. Work-related stress accounts for 37% of all work-related ill-health cases
  2. Musculoskeletal disorders accounts for 41% of all work-related ill-health cases and 34% of all working days lost due to ill-health
  3. Occupational lung disease continues to lead to an estimated 12,000 deaths a year

These statistics and an eagerness to improve in these areas form much of the reasoning behind their focus.

Conclusion

For each of the 4 areas above, there are ways in which the valuable work we do at BIA UK and the delivery of occupational physiotherapy to our clients can contribute to achieving the goals of the HSE. The aims and initiatives being proposed by the HSE align with our values as a health provider too and we look forward to playing our part in reducing the incidence and effect of musculoskeletal illness in Britain’s workplaces.

A New Emphasis on Health

There has been renewed emphasis on health in the workplace due in considerable part to findings from the recent consultation “Work, health and disability green paper: improving lives”. This important consultation supports a case for action with regard to the workplace through; tackling significant inequality, supporting people into work, supporting healthy workplaces, supporting employment and more. It revealed several findings about the workplace as well as what needs to be done to make this a better, more productive environment for employees.

BIA UK’s Efforts in the Workplace

BIA UK’s emphasis is on keeping employees in work and helping them return to work more quickly through the aid of occupational physiotherapy. We see outstanding results and have reached a return on investment value of up to 11:1 through our efforts.

We support the consultation results fully and are excited to see what change is incited as a result of the findings.

The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper

Below, we cover some salient points from the paper and explain how the findings relate to the type of work we do at BIA UK.

  • “Evidence shows that appropriate work is good for our health” At BIA UK we see on a daily basis the improved mental and physical health of employees that have returned to or stayed in work as opposed to going off sick
  • “Reducing long term sickness absence is a priority – 1.8 million employees on average have a long-term sickness absence of 4 weeks or more in a year” BIA UK operates to keep employees in work and reduce considerable long term absence. For one of our clients we reduced the mean musculoskeletal absence length from 17 days to 3 days. Review the case study here.
  • “Access to timely treatment varies across areas; Average waiting times for mental health treatment can differ by as much as 12 weeks across England and some evidence suggests treatment for musculoskeletal conditions can differ by as much as 23 weeks” This is one of the key benefits of inhouse physiotherapy in treating musculoskeletal issues. Employees can get treated faster and at their place of work, lessening time away from work with sickness and also travel time spent going offsite for physiotherapy treatment
  • “Almost 1 in 3 working-age people in the UK have a long-term health condition which puts their participation in work at risk” Musculoskeletal issues affect high numbers of employees – an estimated 9.5million working days were lost in 2014/15 due to such ailments
  • “Over half (54%) of all disabled people who are out of work experience mental health and/or musculoskeletal conditions as their main health condition” Musculoskeletal conditions were the second highest cause of short term absence according to the 2015 Absence Management report from the CIPD

Other Findings and Conclusions

The paper goes on to say:

“There is a lack of practical support to help people stay connected to work and get back to work. This has to change.”

It also includes the following from its list of “wants”:

“We want to: help employers take action to create a workforce that reflects society as a whole and where employers are equipped to take a long-term view on the skills and capability of their workforce, managing an ageing workforce and increased chronic conditions to keep people in work, rather than reacting only when they lose employees.

We want to: ensure people are able to access the right employment and health services, at the right time and in a way which is personalised to their circumstances and integrated around their needs.”

Summary

We have been champions of keeping employees in work and delivering treatment for musculoskeletal illnesses for many years. It’s fantastic to see the government delivering more evidence to support the valuable work we do to improve workplace health in the UK.

We finish with a positive quote we enjoyed from the paper: “Let’s ensure everyone has the opportunity to go as far as their talents will take them – for a healthier, working nation.”

To find out more about our occupational physiotherapy service and how this can work to reduce absenteeism, presenteeism and save hours you can try our ROI calculator here.

Important Employment Trends for the Health & Safety Professional

Safety Management took a look at a number of workplace trends from the past two years. Ranging from flexible working to zero hours contracts, these all have an impact on health & safety and our working lives.

At BIA UK we often work closely with health & safety professionals as musculoskeletal illness (MSK) forms such a large part of employee absence from work. Today we look at what other issues are affecting the role of the health & safety professional.

Vision Zero

Firstly the article talks of “vision zero”, an initiative designed to put a target of 0 incidents or injuries at work on health & safety professionals. Increasing numbers of companies are adopting this idea in a bid to keep their employees safe and it can be a key challenge for professionals working to achieve it. Websites such as healthandsafetyhub.co.uk openly share their target for 0 incidents and accidents.

Ageing Workforce

The HSE talks of our ageing workforce as more older workers both need and want to work past a certain age. This is now a key trend for those working in health & safety where additional considerations might include an increased likelihood of more serious injury from older workers if involved in an accident compared to younger workers, risk assessment reviews should these need to be adapted in any way and employee consultations to avoid any assumptions about older workers.

Additionally, it’s important to avoid making stereotypes about older workers too as these are often unfounded. Indeed, “62 per cent of over 50s describe themselves as feeling as fit as ever, with structural and (other people’s) attitudinal barriers thwarting their ability to stay involved [at work].”

Zero Hours Contracts

Whereas New Zealand has banned zero hours contracts, the Office of National Statistics has released data stating that the UK has more than 800,000 in force at the moment. The concern for healthy & safety professionals regarding this trend is that employers might take a view of diluted responsibility toward workplace risks.

Flexible Working

Flexible working continues to increase in popularity – with employees wanting this over and above any other perk. Employers are taking time to catch up though and there is considerable disparity between the number of individuals looking for flexible working and the number of positions offering this. This development is cited by Safety Management as having the potential to cause confusion among the profession.

Data and Digitalisation

Lastly, data is playing a growing part in the lives of professionals. Employee monitoring through devices that range from Fitbits to little black boxes under desks that measure occupancy levels needs to strike a delicate balance – promoting productivity rather than being invasive. The digitalisation of the workplace is another trend to consider as automation and AI affect our working day.

In addition to the above there is of course, consideration of the main two forms of sickness to recognise – MSKs and mental health of which the former can be treated effectively with occupational physiotherapy.

There’s a lot to consider in the wider world of employment for health & safety professionals working today – in addition to absence of course!

You can find out more about the effectiveness and ROI of occupational physiotherapy in treating absence by trying out our ROI calculator.

Gym Weights

EMS Training: What It Is & How It Works

EMS stands for Electric Muscle Stimulation and is a training technique used in gyms, beauty centres, sport, rehabilitation and medicine. We take a look at what it is and how it works on the body to improve muscle strength and tone.

What is EMS Training?

As the name suggests EMS training involves sending electrical impulses to the muscles to cause their contraction. By doing so muscle can be gained without harming or impacting the joints and it can be gained quickly through its activation of a large percentage of muscle fibres. Other benefits of EMS include a resulting improvement in strength and speed, body shaping and tightening of connective tissue.

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Welcome to the New Back in Action UK

If you have visited us online recently you’ll have noticed that we’re looking a little different. We’re always looking to align our brand with our core values as an organisation and as such have rebranded our logo and website design. See it below.

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New Evidence for Aging Workforce Supports Exercise as Treatment for Mobility Issues

A new study has elaborated further on prior evidence taken from a study suggesting that exercise programs can ease the burden of mobility issues in our aging workforce. We look at the findings, and how these fit into BIA UK’s existing philosophy.

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Cocktail of Tablets

The Doctor Who Gave Up on Drugs

Dr Chris van Tulleken tackles the issue of over-prescription of drugs in his two part BBC documentary as titled. He highlights the strengthening resistance of bacteria to antibiotics and gives a dangerous warning as to our future if we don’t curb our pill popping habit. But what of the solution? The TV program is well worth a watch and ventures into the frightening culture of using tablets to fix ourselves that we’ve all become accustomed to.

Over-Prescription – An Exaggeration?

Firstly, are we really taking too many pills as a nation? After all when we go to the doctor and ask for some antibiotics we really need them, right? Apparently not – as The Guardian report on the program states:

“Painkiller prescriptions have increased by 25% over the last five years, despite research showing that such tablets only work around 50% of the time. Five million people in the UK are on antidepressants and their prescribed use among teens has increased by 50% over the past seven years.”

Part of the problem stems from patients asking for antibiotics and GPs only getting a short amount of time (10 mins) to find out what the problem is and offer a solution. This means a huge amount of pills are being prescribed at any one time – indeed, Dr Chris calculates that someone born today might easily consume 100,000 pills during their lifetime.

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Fareshare Charity Work

What Does a Healthy Workforce Look Like?

Introduction

Throughout recent weeks we’ve discussed in depth the benefits of occupational physiotherapy, how to measure it and how to achieve success and ROI with it as a wellness program.

For the last blog in this series we’re going to conclude with what a healthy workforce looks like once you’ve implemented, evaluated and reaped the benefits of your well-being program of choice and encompassed other elements of organisational culture.

Well-being Program Qualities

If we focus on well-being programs specifically to start, we’ve taken the below points from the CIPD report “Growing the Health and Well-being Agenda: From First Steps to Full Potential”. These are summarised to include the following attributes of what a successful well-being program looks like:

  • The well-being program has formal evaluation methods in place
  • The well-being program is being used by employees! (This often comes from a promotional plan of its benefits from the start)
  • Targets are set and measured against in relation to key metrics such as absence rates
  • One or all of these three areas are covered; health and safety, management of ill-health and prevention and promotion of ill health

Organisational and Environmental Qualities

With regard to employer and environmental qualities, the report mentions the below results of a happy workforce:

  • Employees work in a values-based working environment
  • Open lines of communication exist throughout the organisational hierarchy across all levels
  • There is clarity and unity of organisational purpose

Cultural Qualities

Lastly, let’s conclude with some cultural qualities likely to be present in an organisation with a healthy workforce.

  • Culturally, a work/life balance is encouraged and the culture flexible where flexibility fits and is possible
  • Compensation is fair and spans both salary and benefits
  • A holistic approach is taken covering financial wellness and mental health aspects such as stress

To conclude, the CIPD summarises the above in its graphic displaying the five domains of well-being. You can find this on page 24 of the report.

CIPD Well-being Graphic


Takeaways:

  • A healthy workforce encompasses both cultural and target-driven elements
  • A holistic approach to well-being is best
  • Data matters in achieving wider business success through well-being  

CIPD eGuideWe summarise more of the CIPD report mentioned in our free eGuide which you can download here.

 

Workstation_Desk

Popular Evaluation Methods for Well-being Programs

Introduction

The high importance of evaluation in well-being program success is documented and discussed in the CIPD report “Growing the Health and Well-being Agenda: From First Steps to Full Potential” is. The CIPD states that this importance lies in both achieving the best results and securing future budget.

There is further discussion on why evaluation is so important in our blog on hard data in wellness, but for this discussion we’re moving on to popular evaluation methods for wellness instead.

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