By Evan Gurley
Encourage healthy living at your precast plant by implementing a wellness program.
Talk to anyone who works in the precast concrete industry and they will tell you it’s hard work and requires physical and mental toughness. Whether you’re in the plant, behind a desk or at the job site, men and women who take on a career in the precast industry must meet stringent demands. With the strenuous conditions workers encounter in the precast industry, keeping workers safe and healthy is vital.
Most precasters have a safety program at their plant, but not every precast plant has a company wellness program in place to promote the overall health and well-being of employees. Concerns with costs, time and return on investment discourages them from developing a program. However, a successful wellness program prevents illness and injury, promotes health and productivity, and lowers health care costs.
What is a Wellness Program?
A wellness program is a health promotion activity or organization-wide policy designed to support healthy behaviors and improve health outcomes while at work. Employees are provided with the incentive, motivation and resources needed to maintain a healthy body that will help them perform their job better and remain injury free.
Results of wellness programs have proven the cost-benefit ratio is well worth the investment, even if the only investment is time and effort. Other potential benefits of employer-sponsored wellness programs include:
- Reduced absenteeism and shorter recovery times
- Reduced workers’ compensation claims and health
- Increased physical endurance and morale.
- Increased plant production.
Employers who implement a wellness program need to be persistent. Encouraging employee involvement in the planning can inspire creative ideas. Employers must communicate the benefits to workers and offer incentives for participation if it is not a mandatory program. A wellness program should be embedded in the organization’s culture and aim to increase productivity, not interrupt it.
A program that works
Employer wellness programs used to mean simply offering gym memberships to employees, hanging posters on the wall in the break room about nutrition or encouraging people to use the stairs instead of the elevator. Now, more companies are using different strategies and incentives to promote health and well-being at their plants.
NPCA Producer Member Jensen Precast in Fontana, Calif., has implemented and fully embraced a low-cost wellness program called the Pre-Shift Stretch and Flex Wellness Program. Ruben Gallegos, safety manager at Jensen Precast-Fontana and National Precast Concrete Association Safety, Health and Environmental Committee member, said the program originated from management at the Jensen Precast-Lockeford, Calif., branch as an effort to decrease the company’s injury frequency. The idea behind the program was to raise safety awareness, create a culture of employee bonding and open an opportunity for employee feedback. The Pre-Shift Stretch and Flex Wellness Program was then integrated into the company’s safety and wellness program.
Gallegos provided some insight on how the daily program is run at the plant.
“We put together a detailed schedule with the times, the names of the responsible managers and the names of the employees starting at that particular time,” Gallegos said. “We then developed and made several copies of instructional posters showing all the different exercises expected to be performed at the start of each shift and placed them at different stations across the plant. We require that a department manager/supervisor is in attendance for every session to lead the exercises and to try and identify any employees having a difficult time performing simple stretching.
“It is in fact mandatory for all production employees and managers to participate in the program before the start of each shift.”
Gallegos said gaining buy-in from employees was challenging at the beginning, but as time progressed, employees found the stretching beneficial to their well-being.
“Now, our employees know the routine and get to the exercise site on their own without the supervisor having to round everyone up,” Gallegos said.
Sam Ramos, a Jensen Precast-Fontana production employee, stated, “Warming up every morning is good for all of us. Stretching your hands and fingers, your arms and other muscles gets you prepared for work that day. It also helps you become more alert early in the morning.”
Since the implementation of the program in January 2016, Gallegos said they even have been able to identify injuries that took place over the weekend on workers’ personal time.
“On multiple occasions, we noticed employees not being able to do simple stretch exercises due to back strains and twisted ankles,” Gallegos said. “When the supervisor approached the employees to ask if they had a problem, they admitted to have hurt themselves at home. This injury wouldn’t qualify for a workers’ compensation claim.”
Gallegos is confident that the wellness program will continue to grow to positively impact all employees.
Why your company should buy into workplace wellness
Workplace wellness programs that support employees not only have a positive impact on employee morale, but also present a positive return on investment for employers too. Implementing a wellness program also gives employees a chance to make changes that will benefit their entire life.
Share how you promote wellness at your plant
The NPCA SHE Committee is looking to highlight 2 to 3 additional wellness programs NPCA members have implemented at their own plants to show what others are doing to promote health and wellness and how it has benefitted your facility. Please contact Evan Gurley, NPCA technical services engineer and SHE committee liaison, for additional information at [email protected] or (317) 582-2329.
Evan Gurley is a technical services engineer with NPCA.