Top Stories (Part 2)
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TOP STORIES (Part 2)
In this edition of ISHN's e-newsletter we direct your attention to five more developing stories from the world of workplace safety that could affect your future training, regulatory or policy priorities:
DISTRESS & FATIGUE
Monster.com's 2003 Work/Life Balance Survey shows that 80 percent of Americans are unhappy with their work/life balance. Job satisfaction? 83 percent said they are unsatisfied. Overworked? 57 percent thought that they are.
Despite stats like these, stress - or more appropriately distress - continues to get more attention abroad than here in the U.S. New Zealand recently enacted workplace stress laws. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has targeted job stress for a major educational campaign.
Heard any OSHA officials mention job stress in speeches lately? Any partnerships or alliances aimed at reducing job stress?
U.S. employers might change their thinking about job stress if links to health care costs can be documented. Currently, nearly one-third of American adults have hypertension, and two-thirds are overweight.
Job stress's impact on the bottom line gets more publicity in Europe. The number of days taken sick by United Kingdom workers because of work-related stress has nearly doubled in the last seven years - rising from 18 million lost working days in 1995 to 33 million days lost in the past 12 months.
It is "The lights are on but nobody's home" syndrome. Employees so scared of losing their jobs that they hide illnesses, show up for work, but don't get the job done.
Basically, it's being too insecure about your job to stay away - even if you are sick.
Bottom line, present but unproductive employees cost employers more than $180 billion annually in lost productivity, according to one report. It's a burden largely ignored by employers because it's invisible.
Employers Health Coalition of Tampa, Fla. analyzed 17 diseases and found that lost productivity due to presenteeism was 7.5 times greater than productivity lost to absenteeism. Conditions include allergies, arthritis, heart disease, hypertension, migraines, and neck/back/spine pain.
Solutions: Health and productivity management programs, total employee health programs, health risk appraisals, screening programs, education. Typical disease management programs attack diabetes (which afflicts five percent of work population), asthma, heart disease and depression. Depression accounts for half of health care disability costs - more than alcohol or drug abuse.
But traditional mindsets must change. Many employers don't see the return on investment for wellness programs, and don't want to spend money to get employees in shape only to see them leave and be healthy, productive workers somewhere else.
HEALTH CARE COSTS
2004 will be fourth straight year of double-digit increases in health insurance premiums, according to The New York Times. Rising prices of health benefits is the "biggest issue on our plate that we can't solve," Ford Motor Company Chairman and CEO Bill Ford Jr. said earlier this year.
What can employers do?
After two health screenings revealed that 21 percent of Portland General Electric employees had significant health risks for diabetes and other metabolic disorders, the company launched an aggressive wellness program, according to the Business Journal of Portland.
PGE's "Energy for Life" program aims to raise awareness, educate and get employees to lower their blood pressure, lose weight and eat better. "Random Acts of Fitness" are organized walks outside the workplace or in locations like the Columbia Gorge or the Pearl District of Portland.
Unilever is testing a pilot project based on the premise that most executives don't have a great deal wrong with them medically, but they need tools to help them become more productive, to sleep better, be more alert, have more stamina and to deal with stress and pressure more effectively.
The voluntary program initially invited the top 42 most senior leaders within the company to take part. All but one agreed to participate.
Will rising costs drive renewed interest in wellness and health screening programs? Or will companies continue to increase employees' share of health benefit payments and leave it at that? Stay tuned. . .
A group of 55-60 representatives from industry, labor, government, and professional associations have been hard at work since February 2001 on a U.S. voluntary standard for occupational health and safety management systems.
Why the interest? Members of the American National Standards Institute Z10 Committee want to influence the development of a potential ISO safety and health management systems standard.
They also want to craft a document that could be used as the model for an OSHA safety and health program standard, which could become a front-burner issue if Democrats ever regain control of Congress and the White House.
Work on the ANSI Z10 standard is 90 percent complete, according to a presentation at the recent National Safety Congress and Expo. Here's the current timeline, which of course could change: A final draft will be reviewed at a meeting in December. The draft will then circulate for a "sanity check" for 60 days early in 2004. Committee members will vote to approve the standard in April, 2004. A public review of the standard and the committee's responses will take up the rest of the year. Then, possibly, a final standard will be published in early 2005.
Human resources counselors call it a low-grade career funk. And a number of safety and health pros are at the stage of their careers when blahs and boredom can set in. The typical professional is in his or her mid to late 40s, according to various association membership studies and subscriber research by Industrial Safety & Hygiene News. And last year, only 38 percent of safety and health pros surveyed by ISHN said they felt a rewarding sense of job satisfaction.
Other signs of a funk: low attendance at local professional society meetings, a dearth of submissions to professional journals, and difficulty finding volunteers for professional activities.
Says one industrial hygienist: "There's the sense that all the dragons have been slain. It's just a mop up operation now."
It could be the spirit of the times. Safety and health pros aren't the only ones feeling out of sorts. Check headlines like, "Dark Mood Descends Over American Public as Iraq, Jobs Take Toll," from the Investor's Business Daily. Or from USA Today: "Two years after (9/11), nation is somber? Or "Economy grows, workforce shrinks," from the Philadelphia Inquirer.
How do you recharge the batteries? Prove yourself all over again. One safety pro in Wisconsin left the utility company where he had worked for 22 years and hired on with another utility. Or look for a partner. A safety pro in Iowa downsized out of a job opened a consulting business and hooked up with a training company in Canada. Maybe find something new to focus on. A Chicagoland safety manager has taken up guitar playing and picks with his son on weekends. A New York industrial hygienist looks forward to a change of scenery with his new retreat in the Adirondacks.
Dave Johnson is the ISHN E-News editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (610) 666-0261; fax (610) 666-1906.
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Shakespeare need not apply, but ISHN is looking for authors to publish short articles (1,000 words) in our monthly issues.
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