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01/06/2017

Healthy Workplaces Good Practice Awards 2017 – the winners in profile (part 2)

At this year’s Good Practice Awards 2 organisations received awards for their commitment to retaining and rehabilitating workers. The good practices adopted by PSA Group and Lujatalo OY have made their workplaces safer and healthier for employees, as well as made their companies more profitable.

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Health issues are the most common factor for leaving the workforce before official retirement age. This coupled with Europe’s ageing workforce means it is becoming imperative for organisations to put in place polices that help retain older workers, as well as to reintegrate those on long-term sick leave.

European car manufacturer PSA Group in Spain took a collaborative approach to address the challenges facing their company in relation to the ageing of their workforce. They consulted design, medical services and human resources departments, ergonomics teams and production managers. Respect for workers was at the heart of PSA Group’s approach. Management was fully committed to the project and workers’ representatives involved from the start.

As a result PSA Group decided to tailor work to individuals and to undertake age-sensitive risk assessments on a person-by-person basis, taking into account the physical abilities of each worker. They also introduced a job rotation system to minimise stress, improve the employability of people with physical limitations and maintain/improve the ability of workers to adapt to change.

The mapping of workers’ abilities allowed HR to find suitable positions for workers with physical or psychosocial limitations. Improvements to ergonomic design and occupational safety and health (OSH) practices are continually being made.

Lujatalo Oy, a family-owned construction company in Finland used an early intervention model with follow-up actions to improve the sustainability of working life for all their employees – half of whom are over 45. They introduced vocational rehabilitation policies such as retraining or changing tasks which enabled their workers to continue their careers in good health until retirement.

The company also developed an electronic databank to collect safety observations to illustrate any shortcomings workers came across. Workers with physically demanding roles can point out the risks they face, which in turn reduces the potential for injuries.

Following the implementation of these measures, the number of serious accidents dropped to just 1 or 2 a year and lost time due to injuries fell from 116 to 13.9 (per million working hours) between 2005 and 2015. The costs associated with early retirement have been greatly reduced by retraining workers with physically demanding jobs who face leaving their jobs. A culture of prevention has also developed with reports of safety observations growing from 18 in 2010 to 1,425 in 2015, partly thanks to the new safety app.

The good practices of both PSA Group and Lujatalo OY show how the introduction of seemingly small changes, like job rotation, can have a massive effect on the health, safety and well-being of employees. In both cases, preventive measures are sustainable with a long-term perspective and easily transferable to other companies and countries. They allow workers to stay in their jobs longer and impart their knowledge to the younger generation, which can increase an organisation’s profitability.

In our next article on the Healthy Workplaces Good Practice Awards, we look at winners who have used prevention, ergonomic interventions and online tools and apps to make their workplaces safer and healthier for workers of all ages. In the meantime why not take a look at the Good Practice Award booklet which details all the winning and commended organisations.