This set of guidelines has been developed to help social security institutions support and assist their “clients” – public and private sector enterprises and organizations – to develop comprehensive workplace health promotion (WHP) programmes.
In this context, the term “social security institution” is inclusive and all embracing. Health insurance funds, accident insurance funds, pension funds, providers of occupational safety and health (OSH), unemployment funds and funds supporting long-term care are all included, as are any other agencies considered to be engaged in the field of “social security”.
Workplace health promotion addresses the major risk factors for preventable and non-communicable illness (such as obesity, smoking, type 2 diabetes, alcohol-related illness and mental health) and facilitates early intervention. The workplace is also a setting for disseminating information and raising awareness of communicable illnesses and health conditions such as AIDS. Reducing the risk of illness will, in the medium to long term, lead to a reduced need for social security benefits and will also improve the population’s health. Workplaces must institute a culture of health in the broadest sense, in a way that values the strengths and capabilities of the entire workforce.
According to European Union data published in 2010, 3.2 per cent of workers in the EU27 were reported as having had an accident at work during a one-year period, which corresponds to almost 7 million workers. In addition, 8.6 per cent of workers reported a work-related health problem in the previous 12 months. This represents a significant expense to individual enterprises and national economies. Accidents at work and cases of work-related ill health result in huge costs. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the total cost of work-related accidents and ill health amounts to approximately 4 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product.
Furthermore, research shows that a large percentage of deaths are associated primarily with modifiable, lifestyle-related behaviours. Four predominant factors – tobacco use, poor diet, low levels of physical activity and alcohol consumption, account for the major risks of non-communicable diseases around the world. Over the next two decades, non-communicable diseases will cost more than USD 30 trillion, representing 48 per cent of global gross domestic product in 2010, which will dramatically impact upon productivity.
This significant loss has a negative impact on economic growth and places a burden on society. National economies and individual enterprises with better occupational safety and health standards tend to be more successful. Working safely and safeguarding health and well-being thus provide employers with direct business benefits.
Social security institutions play a major role in influencing and facilitating the return to work after injury or illness. This benefits insurers (with cost savings), individuals (with faster improvements in health and re-established well-being) and employers (with fewer absences).
Social security institutions can achieve tangible benefits by taking a leadership role in protecting and promoting workplace health. These guidelines support such actions.