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Health And Safety Resources For Small Employers

Caring for employees’ health is a win for everyone. Workers feel better, morale improves, and absenteeism and costs go down.

Small-business owners may have even stronger motivation than big companies to safeguard employee wellness and safety. After all, when you have just a handful of workers, you need each one performing at his or her best.

You have plenty to gain by developing health and safety programs—even if your budget is restricted.

Fortunately, a wealth of excellent resources are available at no cost from the U.S. government, nonprofit organizations and other entities.

This report will help you find the tools you need to build a top-notch program for small change.

What Kind Of Health Program Do You Want?

Before you start exploring every resource available, spend some time determining your priorities.

  • Have you talked to employees to learn what they’re most interested in?

  • Do you want to begin with an emphasis on healthy weight, disease prevention, smoking cessation, mental health or some other goal?

  • How much time do you want to focus on this effort? Will it be a one-shot special event, a three-month program or a permanent fixture?

  • What rewards can you provide employees for accomplishing a specific goal, such as quitting smoking, losing 10 pounds or walking three days a week for a month? Effective rewards can be as simple as a gift card to a big-box store or a half day of paid vacation.

  • Can you make the program available to employees’ spouses to encourage greater buy-in?

  • What’s your budget for the program?

Resources Abound

You’ll find a staggering amount of useful information online. Most of the best sources are government agencies and nonprofit organizations.

Here are several top-notch options to explore:

1. American Cancer Society Workplace Solutions

ACS’s Workplace Solutions provides two programs especially for employers: Active for Life and Meeting Well.

Active for Life is a 10-week program geared toward increasing employees’ physical activity. Workers can form teams, motivate each other, track their progress online and gain points for each minute of activity.

Meeting Well is a planning tool to help businesses organize meetings and events that provide good nutrition and opportunities for physical activity.

2. The Small Business Wellness Initiative

This innovative effort is presented in conjunction with a Texas Small Business Development Center, but its online materials are available to everyone.

The site features extensive modules—with PowerPoint presentations, handouts and other resources—on topics such as active lifestyle, healthy eating, managing stress, safety, alcohol and drug use, tobacco cessation and more.

3. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC offers an incredible range of information:

  • Fact sheets
  • Brochures
  • Sourcebooks
  • Newsletters
  • Posters
  • Sample e-mails
  • Toolkits

Topics range from health promotion, diabetes and nutrition to cancer, smoking cessation, HIV prevention, mental health, screenings for disease and more.

Many of the CDC’s toolkits are ready to be implemented out of the box. Good examples are the “Lean Works!” obesity-prevention program and the Tobacco-Free Campus initiative. The Healthier Worksite Initiative provides details on health-program design, workbooks such as “Healthy Workforce 2010” and turnkey solutions for health promotion.

Investigate CDC’s Website

4. The Community Guide

This nonprofit site exists to assist employers and other entities with research on effective programs, worksite information, PDF downloads, links and more.

Topics include preventing disease, encouraging vaccinations, promoting physical activity and discouraging tobacco use.

A unique aspect of the Community Guide is research reviews that indicate which interventions work best, how cost effective they are, and what the return on investment will be.

5. The Wellness Council of America

WCA is specifically geared to employers.

The site offers free tools to help you assess your workplace as well as reports, an e-newsletter, case studies, interviews, PowerPoint presentations and information on health observances (for instance, May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month; March is National Nutrition Month).

Here you can find details on the Well Workplace Small Business Award and how your company could qualify. Among the 10 necessary steps are designating a company wellness leader, providing an opportunity for health screening, and launching an annual physical-activity campaign.

Publications include:

  • “Healthy Workforce 2010 and Beyond: An Essential Health Promotion Sourcebook”
  • “Investing in a Tobacco-Free Future”
  • “Investing in Health: Proven Health Promotion Practices for Workplaces”

6. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s GetFit program

SAMHSA’s Web site offers resources on physical and mental health, including details on drug and alcohol use and abuse.

The site provides confidential screening tools workers can use without employer involvement. In addition, users can access articles, self-tests (for example, a self-assessment for depression) quizzes, FAQs and other information.

Implementing A Health Program

Once you decide what type of health program you want to start for your workplace, the implementation tools at your disposal are practically limitless.

Here are some simple methods that work well for small employers:

  • Communicate with employees. Use posters, bulletin boards, e-mail, pay-envelope stuffers, fliers, booklets, newsletters and recommended Web sites.

  • Schedule lunch-and-learn sessions, and invite a local health expert to give a presentation. Consider speakers from the local health department. Your local area office of the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Arthritis Foundation or other nonprofit can also provide speakers. A nearby college or university can be a good resource. Even a local doctor, nurse, health educator or sports trainer might be willing to talk to your employees.

  • Participate as a company in a special event such as a local health fair or a walk or run sponsored by nonprofit organizations. Examples of popular events are the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, and the Arthritis Foundation’s Arthritis Walk and Jingle Bell Walk.

  • Talk to the community-relations staff of a local hospital. Many hospitals offer programs and/or consultations for employers. Many also provide speakers, materials and Web resources.

  • Call your state or county health department to learn about resources it can offer. Typical offerings range from on-site flu-vaccination clinics to a speakers bureau.

Developing A Safety Program

When it comes to ensuring a hazard-free workplace, the federal government has you covered.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s on-site consultation service is one of the best options available. And it’s free.

No need to worry that asking for help will expose your company to an unscheduled inspection. The on-site consultation service is completely separate from the OSHA inspections office.

Consultations will not result in citations or penalties—just plenty of good advice on correcting any workplace hazards or creating or improving an employee safety program.

To request a consultation, visit the Web site and click the map for the office in your state.

You may also be interested in OSHA’s Safety & Health Achievement Recognition Program, or SHARP. SHARP recognizes small employers who operate exemplary safety and health programs.

If you would like to qualify, you’ll need to:

  • Request a consultation visit
  • Involve employees in sharp
  • Correct any hazards found during the visit
  • Meet certain other requirements

Increasing Buy-In For Your Program

As you gear up to start health and safety programs, invite employee involvement by clearly communicating about all aspects of the program.

Answer questions and provide explanations that cover issues such as:

  • Why are you beginning these programs? What do you hope to accomplish?

  • How can employees contribute to the decision-making process?

  • How will the programs benefit employees?

  • What is expected of employees in terms of participation?

Kick off with a party to help build excitement. Make sure everyone knows about potential rewards and prizes for participation.

Once the projects are under way, regular feedback about participation, results, successes and challenges can help maintain employee interest.

Give a quick, informal report at every staff meeting. Use bulletin boards, posters, e-mail and other tools to tell success stories, indicate levels of participation and share photos.

Allow employees opportunities to tell their stories, too. For example, encourage them to share their successes via e-mail or by posting notes to a bulletin board.

When a project has been completed, wrap up with a special event. A luncheon, party or awards ceremony can reward everyone for taking part and help build morale.

Then make sure you survey workers, whether formally or informally, to learn what could be done differently and better next time.

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