Top Trends in Occupational Health in 2019
It’s been a busy start to 2019 here at Bodycare, as our team continues to push the boundaries to find new and innovative ways to keep employee health, safety and wellbeing at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
In 2018, we felt it was the year of data. Big Data was the term that was on everyone’s mind. Clients, providers, industry leaders – you name it – everyone was looking for ways to gather and store data in a meaningful and safe way. Our obsession with employee health data was closely followed by our desire to understand more about it and the relevant implications that it has on fitness for work. Capturing this type of information led to questions like ”how are we assessing workers to ensure they are functionally fit for work?”, “how can employers effectively monitor a worker’s ongoing fitness for work?”, “what role does a job task analysis play?” and, most importantly, “what is the impact on the day to day running of our business?”
We sat down with Rod Hampel, Head of Strategy & Business Development and David Carroll, our National Operations Manager, to hear their thoughts on what trends we should expect to see in 2019 within the occupational health space.
You guessed it, our numero uno prediction for 2019 is that data will continue to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. BUT, where we see a big difference from 2018 to 2019 is that people wont just be storing data, we believe that they will actually be using the data in a meaningful way to make better business decisions. For a number of years now, we have been gathering data and information and filing it away in dusty filing cabinets in the back room for a rainy day.
In 2019, we believe that the focus will be on finding ways to use the data to create real changes. What this means is that businesses will invest the time and resources into not just gathering information and data but understanding the data, the trends, the pain points, the costs associated and the impact on the wider business. From there this information and knowledge will be used to make better business decisions – procurement decisions, policy decisions, recruitment decisions, operational decisions… the list goes on.
Take musculoskeletal injures, how many of you reading this can honestly say that you know where your injuries are coming from? Not just which site or job type but which shift and what age group accounts for most of your costly injuries? What equipment were these injured employees using (if any at all)? What are the direct causes of the injury – repetition, frequency, duration of task? How long are these injuries taking to be resolved? In 2019 businesses will want to dig deeper to know more.
- Participatory Ergonomics
Now you will have heard us talking about participatory ergonomics a while back, but we think it will play a major role in improving overall workplace safety and employee engagement in 2019. One of the common things we hear from frontline workers is that they hate when management go out and “buy new things” (e.g. plant equipment) without consulting them. The new equipment arrives and they are told to ‘start using it’.
In our experience (and there is plenty of research out there that will back us up), people hate being told what to do. Their immediate response is to push back or rebel. In this case, continue to use the old equipment, no matter how good the new piece of MHE is.
Participatory Ergonomics prevents this situation from happening as it enables frontline workers to have their opinions heard throughout the decision making process. When workers are consulted along the way, it creates buy-in and engagement at the earliest stage and this leads to early adoption or uptake once interventions are put in place. It’s also interesting how the workers often already have a solution to the problem, we just need to take the time to ask!!!
- Employee Engagement
Following on from the above topic, employee engagement is going to be even more important in 2019. More than ever before, we are now recognising the link between positive workplace culture and employees feeling valued. When organisations create stakeholder groups on important issues that affect the business as a whole, it gives rise to the opportunity of people having a voice – that their needs are represented in the decision-making process.
Whether it is the implementation of a company wide health and wellbeing program or changing to a whole new shift structure, the battle of getting buy-in is won in the consultation phase. Just because you think that cooking demonstrations or new vending machines are what your workforce want, it certainly doesn’t mean you are right. If you forget to ask the questions, you could find that you invest a tremendous amount of time, energy and resources into initiatives that receive minimal buy in from frontline employees.
In our opinion, it’s best to take the extra time to liaise with your wider teams to see what they think is important. You might find out that topics like mental health and fatigue management are what people want to be more involved in.
Reaching out, having open communication and listening are our three key ingredients when trying to get engagement and buy in at work – no matter how big or small the project is.
- Collaboration and Partnership
In 2019, we believe that companies will demand that all their healthcare providers and partners work together to create better solutions for the business as a whole. Gone are the days where individual departments work in silo or are completely independent of each other. It’s a tough market out there and departments are being forced to consolidate their resources and collaborate with one another to achieve mutual outcomes. It’s the same within the occupational health space. Doctors, the medical team, the HR team, the safety team, the onsite physio (and the list goes one) all need to be working towards the same goals.
For example, to address a turnover problem with one of our clients, we took a multifactorial approach with how we addressed the problem. Not only did the HR team, along with the pre employment team, decide to beef up the functional assessment to ensure that the new recruits that were entering the business were functionally fit for the role, but the safety team in collaboration with the onsite injury prevention specialist decided to improve the induction and onboarding process. Post the induction process, the onsite injury prevention specialist worked closely with the operations manager to ensure that manual handling assessments were completed on all new employees – all in an aim to lower staff turnover.
So those are some of our thoughts on what 2019 will look like – a tighter, more cohesive way of communicating in order to engage workforces more effectively and have them come up with the answers to help implement programs that target risks that affect our health and safety every day.
Got any thoughts? We’d love your feedback!