It might be difficult to find a construction laborer today who doesn’t have a chronic illness that, at times, affects his or her ability to work. However, when employers find ways to integrate wellness into the workday, laborers can better manage these conditions and stay on the job.
Heart disease and type 2 diabetes are just two chronic conditions that are commonplace at construction sites and other places of business. Most construction laborers and, for that matter, most of the working public, have at least one chronic condition. In fact, since many chronic conditions share the same risk factors, people often have more than one. Smoking, for example, which can lead to lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema, also increases risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. Obesity, often fueled by consumption of high-calorie fast food and convenience store fare, also increases the likelihood for cardiovascular problems and assorted cancers. This excess weight also aggravates arthritis, which is common among construction workers due to the physical nature of their jobs. Chronic mental conditions that may have roots in physical problems can also have an effect on workplaces. A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that construction workers are often stressed about work-related injuries and pain and often fail to seek help. This puts them at risk for further injuries and also depression, anxiety and even suicide.
Ways to Incorporate Wellness
Employers can encourage workers to engage in healthy help prevent chronic conditions from progressing and, in some cases, from even developing. For example, at construction sites, workers can be encouraged to take walks during breaks. Posters can also be displayed where workers punch in that promote the health benefits that come with quitting smoking thus providing daily incentive to give up tobacco and reduce their risks for heart disease, respiratory illness and cancer.
- Health education materials – brochures, posters and health alerts on specific conditions – that can be posted at construction sites, placed within paycheck envelopes and distributed at health fairs and Local Union events
- Toolbox Talks that focus on behavioral health problems, risk factors for chronic conditions, how to prevent them and how to treat them
- Health fairs wherein members and their families can gain access to health information and diagnostic screening tests
- Wellness newsletters that target Laborers’ health and welfare plan participants, explaining new benefits and addressing problems affecting LIUNA members and their families
The LHSFNA’s Health Promotion division can help you come up with a wellness plan for your construction site and provide accompanying materials. You can also order these materials by going to the Fund’s website and clicking on Publications.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]