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BLOG: Why does health get forgotten in health and safety?

You can easily spot the colleagues wearing a personal activity monitor, writes CSC's CR lead Paula Sullivan. Whether they’re a Fitbit fanatic or a devotee of another brand of device, they’re the people marching on the spot while they wait for the coffee machine. They’re also the people most likely to forgo email in favour of walking across the office to speak to you in person. Better still if the walk involves a few flights of stairs.

Having started my career in health and safety, I’m perplexed as to why health is often the poor relation. Safety is of course vital but the health and wellbeing of your workforce is just as important.

The logic of prevention has been accepted wisdom for many years. In 1993, the former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop published a paper that stated “preventable illness makes up about 70 percent of the burden of illness and the associated costs.”

Sound business sense
Prevention is of course common sense, but it has wide-reaching economic benefits too. In their latest report, the Health and Safety Executive in the UK estimate that 23.5 million days were lost last year due to work-related ill health at an economic cost to the country of £14.2billion.

Support for corporate wellness programs appears to be on the rise. Not only do employers understand the moral case for investing in their people, but there is a sound business case to support it too.

A meta-analysis of the literature by Baicker in 2010 found that in the US, medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every $1 spent on wellness programs. The same study found that absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every $1 spent.

There are other benefits too for the employer including improved rates of absenteeism, employee engagement, morale and productivity. So whether its team activity challenges, workplace health checks, walking clubs or providing healthy snacks, investment in health always pays dividends.

Blog post done, it’s now time to speak to my colleague in accounts, which, by my reckoning will earn me 182 steps and two flights of stairs.

Paula Sullivan leads IT services organisation CSC's CR Program at a global level, with 13 years experience in driving forward a winning corporate strategy for Corporate Responsibility leading to a platinum ranking in the U.K.'s BITC CR Index in 2013 and CSC globally achieving a place in the Top 100 Best Corporate Citizens List 2014 and Most Improved Citizen Ranking in 2014. 

You can read more of her CR blogs here.

CSC | Global | Health and safety

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