As the costs of medical care in the United States continues to increase, companies are faced with the challenge of cutting the dollars spent on healthcare for their employees while continuing to offer quality medical care that will promote a satisfied and productive workforce. Of particular concern is the escalating costs of work related injuries and illnesses. At issue is not just the direct cost for the provision of the medical care required, but the ensuing loss of productivity, lost time, increased absenteeism and increase in workers compensation premiums. Companies need to face these rising costs and their economic impact through an integrated approach that include programs such as ergonomics, safety, and occupational health.
Many factors contribute towards the optimal productivity and well being of the work force. Factors such as safe work practices, a safe and clean work environment, corporate and supervisor philosophy emphasizing safety, and the physical and mental health of the employee all affect performance, productivity and the bottom line. Health is a crucial factor for optimal productivity. Companies that invest in establishing health programs on their work sites provide an avenue for early recognition and treatment of work related illnesses and injuries. Additionally, many general health conditions, some life threatening may be identified through company health programs; thus, the benefits of Occupational health programs are multifold and ultimately achieve a healthier happier more productive work force and a positive return on their dollar.
This paper will focus on occupational health programs and medical management, and the impact they have on the bottom line, productivity, recordable injuries, lost time cases, absenteeism, employee health and overall employee satisfaction and morale.
In the United States, workplace injuries and illnesses continue to negatively impact private industry. According to data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.4 million non-fatal injuries occurred in private industry in 2003. This translates into 5 cases per 100 full-time employees. Of these cases, the construction and manufacturing industries had a higher than average work related injuries and illnesses that each totaled 6.8 cases per 100 full-time employees. There is also a direct relationship between the injury rate and the size of the work force, with the larger workforces having a higher rate of injury. There is also a variation in the rate by industry sector with manufacturing leading the way compromising 21% of all work related injuries and 41.8% of all work related illnesses. Chart 1 below demonstrates the breakdown of work related injuries and illnesses by industry.