Kevin Ian Schmidt
EHS professionals ignore employee health

Quit Ignoring Employee Health

In the current world, with COVID, many EHS professionals find themselves talking more and more about employee health, being in charge of health aspects of employees that they never considered part of their jobs.

This is a great time  to talk about the H in EHS.

As EHS professionals, we all know our responsibilities in environmental and safety, but often overlook the health aspect of the job. Sure, some say “health” falls in line with “environmental” and “safety”, because it is all about the health of an employee, but I think we should do more for the “health” of employees. Because if we drive health as part of our total strategy, it can actually improve workplace safety in the long run.

Does this mean we should be talking about gyms and how to workout? No. We don’t even need to reinvent the wheel, because many companies already have programs that we can utilize and champion for employee safety.

How many EHS professionals can talk of their company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which can offer things such as:

  • Fitness, Nutrition, Weight Loss Programs and Incentives
  • Health and Wellness Resources
  • Stress Management Assistance
  • Parenting and Family Issues
  • Elder and Child Care Resource Locators
  • Personal Finance and Education
  • Retirement Planning Assistance
  • Debt Counseling and Debt Restructuring
  • Wills, Forms and Legal Templates
  • Legal Information
  • Stress, Grief, Depression and Trauma Counseling Services
  • Mental and Behavioral Health Counseling Services and Assistance
  • Domestic and Workplace Violence Resource Center
  • Tobacco Cessation
  • Alcohol, Drugs and Substance Abuse Counseling Assistance

These sort of things can help employees deal with the stress, pressure, and issues going on in their personal lives, which can lead to issues at work.

If someone is stressing about financial issues at home, they can be distracted, which can lead to an injury.

So as EHS professionals, why do we so often, let HR drive these programs? Why do we allow these programs to be talked about once in awhile?

Why are we not the champions for a program like this? It clearly can help employee health, but too often, EHS professionals don’t concentrate on the health of employees is this manner. And I often wonder why not?

Check Out: Corporate Volunteering Leads to Engaged Employees

Even looking beyond EAP, many workplaces have Employee Wellness Programs, which are often tied to health  insurance, and have direct incentives to improving employee health, but far too few EHS professionals can talk about these program, and even fewer champion them.

Now let’s consider, what these sort of programs can offer:

  • Wellness Screenings
  • Life Coaching Sessions
  • Wellness Challenges
  • Ergonomic Services
  • Movement efficiency testing – pre and post employment
  • Post-offer employment testing
  • Early intervention programs
  • Physical and occupational therapy

These are great resources, and are something that as EHS professionals, we should be touting, but too often they are overlooked, not talked about, or not even realized they are available.

In fact many corporate wellness programs are a once a year thing to talk about, which means that essentially the program is a failure. Or worse, the company wellness program is just an afterthought, something listed in a benefits guide, an never talked about.

There are many resources talking about the failures of corporate wellness programs, I would like to highlight a list I found of the failings, so we can talk about it a bit more.

14 Reasons Many Corporate Health and Wellness Programs Fail

  1. Activity vs Results Oriented Wellness Efforts
  2. Overly Complicated Programming. Simpler is Always Better for your Corporate Health and Wellness Program
  3. Incentives That Use Sticks Rather Than Carrots
  4. Use Eisting Staff to Design and Run the Corporate Health and Wellness Program
  5. Poor Leadership Support
  6. Fail to Create a Health Promoting Culture and Environment
  7. Incentivizing the Wrong Things
  8. Expect a Static Wellness Portal to Be a Wellness Program
  9. Poor Communications within your Corporate Health and Wellness Program
  10. Don’t Include Spouses and Significant Others
  11. Don’t Have a Functioning Wellness Committee
  12. Keep the Corporate Health and Wellness Program in a Silo.
  13. Treat the Wellness Program as a Perk, Not a Benefit
  14. Poor Program Marketing

So reason 14, Poor Program Marketing, is something a department focused on employee HEALTH should own, or at least support. Sure, some may say “our liability ends at the door”, but that isn’t a basic fact. Employees bring their health to work, if they have poor health, or undo stress, it can impact their work, it can cause distractions, it can cause attendance issues. All of which does impact the workplace.


I believe more EHS departments need to focus on the H a bit more, especially in the world today.

What do you think?

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