It can be argued that the workforce is the most important human asset for any corporation and certainly, the health of the

workforce has been an increasing area of concern over the last two decades.

With rapid industrial expansion , the subsequent changes in the nature of work available to regional populations,has seen

employment practices grow around these new industrializing needs,

resulting in employees being exposed to an emergent and wide ranging set of health risks.

Although risks and Hazards in the workplaces are very similar  and employers have to face these challenges which are inevitable , nevertheless they are quite similar in most of the workplaces.     Do you mean:  Many workplaces share common types of  Risks and Hazards as the country infrastructure, along with national health strategies, and agendas develop to reflect the modernizing nation, causing inevitable , but shared challenges for employers in establishing and maintaining workplace health.

The World Health Organisation recently stated that  “Globally, occupational diseases and accidents have claimed about 335,550 fatalities, 250 million occupational injuries, and 160 million cases of work-related disease.

With national losses in GDP amounting to 4 per cent, the ILO estimates that the death rate may amount to as much as 1.2 million from a world-wide working population of 2,700 million, and shows that costs incurred by work-related diseases can be categorized into eight major classes: 
Musculoskeletal disorders: Neurosystem diseases and injuries: Cardiovascular diseases: Occupational dermatoses: Respiratory system illnesses: Mental disorders: Cancers.

  • 160 million new cases of work-related illness occurs yearly resulting in 1.7 million deaths
  • Occupational risks are responsible for 37% of back pain worldwide, 16% of hearing loss, 13% of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, 11% of asthma, 8% of injuries, 9% of lung cancer, and 2% of leukaemia and caused 850,000 deaths worldwide.
  • Needle stick injuries accounted for about 40% of Hepatitis B and C infections and 4.4% of HIV infections in health care workers (need to reference these stats )

Interestingly, statistics from industrialized countries show that psychosocial hazards and work-related stress affect one fifth of the working population. 

-The major causes of workplace ill health The most common work related ill health problems are:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Stress-related illness
  • Noise Induced Hearing Loss
  • Occupational Asthma
  • Dermatitis

IT is of particular note that whilst each industry may have its own profile of health issues, musculoskeletal disorders, such as back pain, and mental health illness are the two greatest health problems attributed to work activity, and share commonality across most industry sectors. (reference needed)

The concept of Workplace Health is generally accepted as n general term, is the effects of work on health and of health on work, but can be more specifically defined as the creation of work environments that encourage and promote the positive health and well-being for those who are employed within them (need a reference).

D-Benefits of workplace health
Financial loss due to sickness, work absence and staff turnover numbers are key factors that drive employers to support and resource worker health improvement programmes and workplace health standards. 
In large industries the costs associated to lack of proper health systems, and/or poor health management systems can be very high, and are reflected by high absenteeism.  In smaller industries, poor health system are frequently reflected in ‘presenteeism’,  a condition arising when staff attend the work place but are unable to perform their duties adequately, due to ill health.  This eventually reduces worker performance, and clearly has implications on the quality and effectiveness of the business.

-Cost & implication of poor workplace health:

The economic issue of 'cost' is a major financial consideration for the employer and can be presented in several forms, both through Direct and Indirect costs.  
The cost of a poor health management system within an industry or business is very difficult to estimate as many of the costs of poor working conditions are hidden costs. 
Some of the more familiar hidden Costs of poor health conditions include:

  • low employee moral and reduced productivity
  • increased accident and injuries
  • increased insurance claims
  • poor decision making
  • increased staff turnover

It is estimated that the indirect cost of absence alone is three or four times the direct cost from ill health and poor working conditions.
The benefit of effective workplace health programs are:

  • Reduction in work-related accidents and injuries.
  • Job satisfaction.
  • Lower levels of stress.
  • Improved management of change.
  • Better working environment.
  • Improved working relationships.
  • Professional development
  • Improved occupational health and safety.
  • A sense of being valued.
  • Customer satisfaction,
  • Meeting statutory requirements in relation to health and safety and employment legislation.
  • Reduced absenteeism and presenteeism.
  • Easier recruitment and lower staff turnover.
  • Improvements in staff morale.
  • Better employee relations.
  • Lower insurance premiums and legal costs.

-Workplace health program:

Achieving positive health and well-being within the workplace, needs an integrated health management system that encompasses and takes care of all the health issues, and further promotes well being in the workplace. For an integrated health management system to be effective it has to focus or take into consideration two main elements:

  • workplace health strategy
  • Workplace health approach

Workplace health strategy is an important pillar in building an efficient workplace health system and can be considered as a first step in a long process to achieve the ultimate goal of an effective healthy workplace. Effective strategy will enable management to reduce the incidence of work-related ill health and also improve the health and well being of the workers.

-Why do we need a Workplace Health Strategy?
The needs is clear, every year worldwide numbers of people suffer from some form of work-related health problem, resulting in prevention of them carrying out normal jobs. Many of these will be out of work for very long time periods, with some never returning to the workplace. 
The costs of this to society, employers and the individuals themselves are enormous – both in human terms and financially. 
The impact on the lives of those individuals and their families, through loss of earnings, self esteem and social contact, cannot be measured in purely economic terms. Employers are required to fulfill their legal duties and to do whatever they can, as low as reasonably practical to prevent this unnecessary waste and suffering. The ILO has established international standards through such Conventions as Occupational Safety and Health, 1981 (No. 155); Occupational Health Services, 1985 (No. 161); Labour Inspection, 1947 (No. 81) and another 88 Conventions setting the following goals:

  • protecting workers in hazardous jobs;
  • extending protection into the informal sector;
  • promoting worker health and well-being; and
  • Showing that health protection pays.
  • The effect of work on health
  • The effect of health on work
  • Occupational health support structures
  • Rehabilitation and recovery programs and. workplace health promotion.

The World Health Organisation in its document Global Strategy on Occupational Health for All states that, “every citizen of the worldhas a right to a healthy and safe work place and to a work environment thatenables him or her to live a socially and economically productivelife”, and also goes on to state that occupational health and the wellbeing of working people are crucial prerequisites for productivityand are of the utmost importance for overall socioeconomic andsustainable development.

The World Health Organisation estimates a world annual incidence of 68-157 million cases of occupational disease, of which about 30-40% may lead to chronic disease and about 10% to permanent worker disability.

In the European Union an estimated 350 million working days were lost each year due to work-related health problems. And 150 million working days lost due to accidents at work. (which year?? Need a reference ???)

The strategy should take in consideration the following factors that affect workplace health:

  • Increased focus on performance and personal accountability;
  • Reduced job security;
  • Rapid and sustained organisational change; and
  • Changing work practices.

The workplace health strategy incorporates the following four key elements:

  • Support: workplace specific and easily accessible occupational health services, for those who need it.
  • Awareness: ensuring that all involved health stakeholders: individual, organisational and community have the knowledge of workplace health issues.
  • Compliance: best achieved if the organization and employee meet their duties and there is an enforcing policy and procedures.
  • Rehabilitation: effective mechanisms in place to support those who have been made ill by work, allowing such people either to continue working or to return to work as soon as possible.

H-Workplace health approach

There are two approaches to workplace health, the organizational approach and individual approach. Workplace health programs have shifted their focus, previously health improvement initiatives were focused solely on individual lifestyle changes. The wider social and organizational context was not taken into account. The limited impact of such lifestyle programmes on the workers health in general has lead to wide-scale change towards more positive health behaviors and the development of a different approach to workplace health.

This new approach takes into account the interaction between the individual and the organization.

The new approach focuses on the sources of health and ill health in the workplace and the capacity to shift focus beyond the individual to the work environment, to cross disciplines and work boundaries in identifying problems and finding solutions from  within the workplace which will enable those in charge of the health system to involve workers and overcome work related health issues. 
To achieve the desired outcome from workplace health program requires an integrated holistic model of workplace health management which should be proactive, interdisciplinary and integrative system approach to formulate and develop company policies and workplace culture that facilitates employee participation, professional growth and team work.
Implementing workplace health management is an approach to workplace health that includes health promotion, disease prevention and safety.

The duty of the employer is to evaluate the risk in their workplaces and decide how they can best fulfill their legal and leadership roles to protect and promote the health and well-being of their employees. What is the role of the employer and what strategy should be adopted to deal with the complex workplace pressures and health impacts on employees.

The desired outcome of workplace health management is:

For the individual

  • overall health
  • improved job performance
  • higher job satisfaction
  • life style behavior change

For the organization:

  • Increased productivity
  • Efficiency
  • Competitiveness
  • Growth
  • Reduction in financial loss
  • Talented attraction and retention

M-Components of an effective workplace health program:
A successful programme must include both the strategy and organizational approach. There are four major components to an effective workplace health program:

  • Committed management that endorses policies and procedures to support the health and well being of the workforce, this requires senior management to integrate employee health and well being into the organizations vision, mission, values, management practice and policies. Leadership goes beyond endorsement of programmes and should involve active and visible participation of senior management.
  • Accepting workplace health as an integral part of business performance.
  • Achieving a high level of health performance.
  • Providing adequate and appropriate resources to implement the program.
  • The setting and publishing of health objectives.
  • Defining responsibilities to be undertaken at all management levels.
  • Ensuring employee participation in consultation activities thereby enhancing the effectiveness of policy implementation. the employees should drive ongoing changes and influence programmes
  • Ensuring that all staff levels within the organisation fully understand the program.
  • Undertaking periodic reviews of the program, the management system and the outcomes of audits, the latter illustrating compliance with the program.
  • Providing training and information for employees to ensure they are competent.
  • Efficient Occupational health structure that looks after Occupational Health Services (OHS)

  • Staff should have access to an OHS
  • Pre-employment screening and fitness to work assessments.
  • Work-related immunizations
  • Return to work assessments that will involve managing long-term sickness absence and include rehabilitation.
  • Risk management: involvement in the fulfillment of legal requirements by assisting in the formation of policies and procedures for implementing risk assessment.
  • Return to work assessments that will involve managing long-term sickness absence and include rehabilitation.
  • Risk management: involvement in the fulfillment of legal requirements by assisting in the formation of policies and procedures for implementing risk assessment.
  • fitness to work
  • health surveillance driven by Health Risk Assessment (HRA)
  • health promotion
  • Rehabilitation
  • Program to support  personal health and well-being not only includes encouraging and supporting staff to lead healthier lives, but takes account of the wider determinants of health, offering access to services to cover issues such as relationships, finance, housing and financial counseling.
  • Sustainable development reflects the Department of Health’s strategy on Sustainable development of working environment to ensure better quality of life for all.

In essence, the integrative model of workplace health management uses a participatory problem solving cycle to identify and address the numerous issues associated with health promotion and disease prevention, occupational safety and hazard reduction, and organizational improvement and human resource management. Specifically this involves the employees and employer participating in a needs-based program development and implementation cycle: identifying health priorities and addressing environmental, organizational, and occupational and lifestyle determinants of employee health. 
To be effective, your program must:

  • be workplace specific
  • have commitment from the employer and senior management
  • have input from the workers
  • assign clear responsibilities and accountabilities
  • have an evaluation mechanism
  • be available and effectively communicated

The implementation of effective workplace health program requires an integrated, sustainable structured and systemic program which reflects the priorities of the staff and the organization on each of four component areas. One way of achieving such program is by adopting a workplace health cycle.