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05/10/2017

Healthy Workplaces Good Practice Awards 2017 (part 4) – the benefits of health promotion

Many companies in Europe have found health promotion programmes and offering free access to medical treatments to be effective ways of improving the sustainability of their worker’s lives. SAP and Mavir ZRt are 2 Good Practice Award winners who have seen big reductions in sick leave, as well as positive changes in behaviour and mind-set. 

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In Europe, workers across all sectors face different occupational safety and health (OSH) risks. Yet, there are some common approaches to addressing risks related to the ageing workforce.

Health promotion programmes can be introduced relatively easily and cheaply in any organisation. But it’s important to remember that they are only complementary to other safety and health measures that organisations should put in place. Indeed health promotion must always imply organisational changes at the management level, rather than just focusing on individual behaviours.

Workers at MAVIR ZRt, a Hungarian electricity supplier, often face high-risk occupational dangers such as exposure to high-voltage equipment, heat, hot surfaces and noise. Such occupational hazards can also lead to mental stress, injuries and musculoskeletal disorders. With 60% of MAVIR’s substation workers and 39% of their transmission line workers aged over 50, the company decided to introduce company-wide additional measures to improve the long-term health and well-being of all employees (old and young).

To achieve this MAVIR offers free and round-the-clock access to medical treatments, routine medical check-ups and voluntary pension and health insurance schemes. Holiday subsidies also encourage workers to take regular breaks.

To improve long-term health, MAVIR also introduced a number of health promotion programmes including a ‘Health Day’ – which encourages participation in sports and medical screening – and a ‘Crisis Academy’ to train managers and leaders in dealing with stress, conflict and crises, and in raising awareness of the importance of OSH.

The results of MAVIR’s measures have been very positive. Sick leave reduced from 2,000 days in 2006 to around 500 in 2015, and sick leave caused by accidents reduced to almost zero. Uptake of medical screening increased along with the use of the holiday subsidy which has almost doubled in the past decade.

Software developers and official campaign partner SAP, who recently held a good practice exchange event, has had similarly positive results with its year-long ‘Run Your Health’ scheme at its Netherlands office. SAP also ran poster campaigns and workshops to encourage healthy lifestyles. All participants reported positive changes in behaviour and mind-set and an improved understanding of the long-term risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

As a necessary first step to promoting a healthy lifestyle, SAP made ergonomic improvements and brought in tools and equipment to encourage workers to move more throughout the day.

Finally, the official campaign partner Toyota Material Handling in Belgium received a commendation at the Good Practice Awards for its efforts to prevent strain injuries at work. Physiotherapy sessions combining theory and practical exercises were rolled out to all employees and accidents due to overstrain were halved as a result. Absenteeism also decreased leading to savings for the company that were four times the investment cost of 337 physiotherapy sessions.  

To read more about this year’s Healthy Workplaces Good Practice Awards winners you can read our 3 previous articles on organisations who focused on ergonomics, retaining and rehabilitating workers, and age management and sustainable working conditions. Or you can download the Good Practice Awards booklet, now available in 18 languages and which gives details on all the winning and commended examples.