August 25, 2017

Top three health risks for Colorado healthcare employees

There’s no question that an unsafe work environment can lead to employee injuries. Safety programs, use of proper equipment and risk management training are just a few of the ways you can help keep your employees safe on the job. However, it’s also important to understand the common health risk factors your employees face that can increase their likelihood of injury. Identifying these risks and taking steps to counteract them is a crucial part of your risk management program.

Get to know the top three health risk factors for healthcare employers:

1. Poor nutrition

According to Pinnacol’s worksite wellness data, poor nutrition is the top health risk factor for those working in the healthcare industry, with 58 percent of workers in this field registering a BMI categorized as overweight or obese. In addition to weight issues, poor nutrition combined with a work environment that may not lend itself to consistent breaks can cause both digestive and urinary tract problems.

To mitigate this risk factor, employers can provide healthy snacks in break rooms and ensure there is plenty of water available — perhaps by installing water bottle filling stations. Employers can also promote a culture where taking care of yourself (e.g., taking breaks and eating well) is seen as a key component of being able to care for others.

2. Back and neck pain

Poor lifting techniques can create risk in any industry, but this is especially prevalent in health care where data shared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that overexertion injuries range from twice (for hospital workers) to five times (for ambulance workers) the national average. Risky behaviors include:

  • Moving, transferring or repositioning patients.
  • Moving or lifting equipment.
  • Assuming awkward positions to perform exams or procedures.

Mitigation of many of these factors begins with proper training for both manual lifting and the use of assistive devices to move patients. Healthcare employers also need to be willing to track data, solicit feedback, and then make investments in additional assistive devices or personnel to ensure employees can comply with the training received and proper techniques taught.

3. Stress

A 2015 study by the American Psychological Association found that 64 percent of Americans experience a specific type of stress — financial stress. This stress can have a direct affect on workplace productivity, as well as lead to increased illnesses and absences. In fact, 20 percent of individuals have said that they delay medical care because of financial stress.

How can an employer help mitigate what seems like such a personal issue? Offer financial benefits such as 401(k) programs and HSA account options and provide information about these benefits. General but relevant education can be helpful as well. Bring in experts to give advice about managing finances — such as information about dealing with student loans or other debt and making major purchases. These efforts will show employees a commitment to and concern for their overall well-being.

Want to learn more about ways to mitigate health risks in the workplace? Our friends at HealthLinks, a signature program of the Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health, can help.