Protecting Your Biggest Asset, Your Workforce

A Healthier Workforce Creates a Healthier Company

In a survey of more than 12,000 employees conducted by the Harvard Business Review in 2011, the foremost reason these staffers were unhappy at work was because they felt undervalued by management.

Given that a company’s biggest asset is its workforce, it will serve managers well to take good care of those who work for them. Occupational health practices can go a long way towards making employees feel valued – especially when they receive good health benefits. And one of the most efficient ways to do this is by contracting the services of an occupational health nurse (OHN).

“An occupational health nurse is almost a jack of all trades when it comes to company health,” says Angie Butkovic, national educational representative at the South African Society of Occupational Health Nursing Practitioners. “They fulfil a number of roles: they’re clinicians, health educators, they develop health and safety policies, conduct health research and trend analysis for organisations, they coordinate with other healthcare providers to simplify additional health checks, they conduct health risk assessments, and provide rehabilitation-, work fitness-, and travel health services. To name a few! The programmes an OHN develops depend on the unique needs of each organisation.”

Their services are also not limited to large corporates. “OHNs usually have three business models: onsite services, usually at large corporates; walk-in clinics, usually in business parks where they service several SMEs; and mobile services for once-off visits or remote locations,” says Butkovic.

Very often, the money saved by hiring an occupational health nurse will mitigate the costs of their employment. “By providing pre-employment health checks and on-going employee assessments, OHNs also lessen litigation vulnerabilities and help prevent the loss of skills due to ill health. By keeping employees healthy and providing these services, managers can improve productivity, increase dedication and motivation, and reduce time out of the office,” says Butkovic.

By the numbers

A study conducted in 2003 by the University of Minnesota in the USA showed that the top three reasons employees visited occupational health nurses that year were blood pressure checks, dermatitis and ergonomic strains related to the workplace, such as back pain. These conditions warrant health checks that would take two hours outside the office, on average, and occupational health nurses provided care in much less than an hour, say the study authors – meaning that an on-site nurse can more than halve time spent away from the office for these prominent conditions.


D. du Toit

Read more

Keep your company healthy this winter

Keep your company healthy this winter

African Vaccination Week, from 24-30 April, is the perfect time to kick off a company-wide vaccine awareness programme. As the weather cools, the workplace sniffles start. And when one person gets sick, you can be sure more will follow. Flu costs the South African...

Take Action on Women’s Health

Take Action on Women’s Health

28 May is International Day of Action for Women’s Health. Here’s how you can create gender-sensitive occupational health policies. Stress, burnout and depression are increasing year on year. A worrying trend for companies, says Dr Niri Naidoo, clinical operations...