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18/05/2017

Healthy Workplaces Good Practice Awards 2017 – the winners in profile (part 1)

At the Good Practice Awards ceremony on 26 April, organisations from all over Europe were awarded or commended for their good practices on age management and sustainable working conditions. In this article we take a look at 3 winners who demonstrate the importance of workers and managers working together to improve occupational safety and health and reduce absences and early retirement.

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Getting workers involved in workplace occupational safety and health (OSH) can be done in various ways, including giving workers a voice when it comes to safety and health through the introduction of OSH committees, departments and trade unions. Managers also have a role to play, for example by giving workers more say about company policies or by involving them in the development of training.

Zumtobel Group AG – a manufacturer of lighting and lighting management systems in Austria – investigated challenges associated with its ageing workforce and carried out several interventions including: ergonomic changes to ensure that workstations are age appropriate; a procedure for supporting the reintegration of staff after long absences; and training for team leaders emphasising employee well-being, appreciation and recognition.

The results of Zumtobel’s changes were immediately evident with 8 employees being successfully reintegrated to the company following extended periods of absence. Return-to-work meetings were introduced to identify measures to prevent further absences.

Rudnik, a mining company from Serbia, went a different way in their aim to reduce early retirement by overhauling safety and health practices. To tackle the loss of skills resulting from early retirement, Rudnik employed 30 experienced professional miners from a neighbouring mine to train new employees and pass on their knowledge and experience of good safety and health practice in a mining setting. A trade union and an OSH committee were also established to ensure that employees’ opinions on safety and health matters would be heard.

Since implementing their new interventions, occupational injuries have decreased significantly and retirement age has increased.

Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, a printing press manufacturer in Germany, took a holistic approach to addressing demographic issues. Organisational measures were implemented, including systematic workplace inspections, job rotation, ergonomic checks and managerial task forces for specific topics. Supervisors and employees also completed training and were encouraged to create and implement team measures like organising knowledge exchange projects or setting up running clubs.

The interventions were consolidated and evaluated. The results were very encouraging; 3,500 employees participated in the design and implementation of changes to the company’s safety and health policies and practices, with 80% giving positive feedback of the experience. It is estimated that the sickness rate decreased by 1% following the interventions, which equates to €7 million in savings a year.

The easy, transferrable measures these 3 winners made can be an inspiration to other organisations looking to improve OSH in the context of ageing. They show how participatory and management measures can be put in place and result in not only safer and healthier workers but more profitable organisations.

In the coming weeks we will look at how the other Healthy Workplaces Good Practice Awards winners achieved success, by focusing on areas like rehabilitation and retention, by using prevention and new technologies and by health promotion. In the meantime why not take a look at the Good Practice Award booklet which details all the winning and commended organisations.