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Published: October, 2009; Vol 6, Num 5

 

Wellness, Safety Programs Even More Vital in Recession

Even during the current economic crisis – as employers look to budget cuts, layoffs and furloughs to protect their bottom lines – wellness and workplace safety programs remain sound investments.

Alternate description

LHSFNA Management
Co-Chairman
Noel C. Borck

“LIUNA’s signatory employers and LIUNA’s health and welfare funds are well-advised to avoid cuts in these vital programs,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “Healthier Laborers, versed in wellness and safety, are more productive. They are sharper physically and mentally. They avoid injuries, and they incur fewer health care costs.”

Wellness Programs

Wellness programs mitigate destructive behaviors that tempt Laborers during times of stress. These, in turn, can impact workplace performance and output. Overeating, smoking and use of dangerous drugs are examples of unhealthy and serious habits that often gain ground in periods of uncertainty and stress.

The LHSFNA’s Health Promotion Division develops wellness programs designed for LIUNA members and their families. These programs emphasize health messages that are relevant to career performance and health in general.

Wellness programs take many forms, including:

  • Annual physicals and member assistance programs  (MAPs)– check with your plan for specifics
  • Health fairs, where members and their families gain access to health information and diagnostic screening tests
  • Health promotion classes, which focus on behavioral health problems, risk factors and suggestions for preventing or treating such conditions
  • A wellness newsletter, exclusively designed for Laborers’ health and welfare plan participants, which explains new benefits and addresses problems that affect LIUNA families
  • Health and consumer education materials – such as brochures, posters and health alerts on specific conditions – for distribution at health fairs, local union events, within paycheck envelopes or through health fund communications (available through the Fund’s online Publications Catalogue)

Safety Programs

According to a recent article in EHS Today, job security worries might lead workers to not alert employers about work hazards out of concern that they will be regarded as “troublemakers.”  Meanwhile, employers, looking to save money, could cut back on safety training and, to keep insurance premiums down, fail to report accidents.  A subsequent article in EHS Today said safety issues stand to become more serious if the economy worsens and people join the workforce without appropriate training.

Particularly in times of stress, cutbacks in company safety programs cannot be justified. The LHSFNA offers services that can help sustain these programs.

  • Worksite safety audits to identify hazards and effective means to address them
  • Materials for use in toolbox talks and company safety programs
  • Guidance in the creation of Hearing Conservation, Respiratory Protection, Work Zone Safety, Fall Protection and many other programs, depending on the focus and needs of particular signatory employers
  • Guidance in containing the rising cost of workers’ compensation insurance

“Although financial pressures can make cutting safety or wellness programs seem attractive,” Borck warns, “long-term losses are likely to substantially outweigh short-term financial gains. Before making cuts, consider your options carefully.”

For more information and consultation, contact the Fund’s Health Promotion or Occupational Safety and Health Divisions at 202-628-5465.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]