Lynsey Sidney - Staffing Operations Supervisor

Our resources industry workers have helped to deliver Australia’s mining boom. The boom has undoubtedly brought vast benefits to the Australian economy such as more jobs, exports, tax revenues and, for the majority of people, higher incomes. However, we’ve massively let them down.

In 2008, the ABS reported 76% of employees in the mining industry in Australia were reported as overweight or obese, the highest of all industry groups. By 2015 the NSW Minerals Council reported 83.4% of NSW coal miners were overweight or obese.

The long working hours, poor health literacy and education, sedentary work, stress, mental illness and alcohol use is leading to obesity in the resources sector and it’s killing our workers.

To tackle the problem, the New South Wales Minerals Council (NSWMC) has released a Management of Overweight and Obesity Blueprint.

The blueprint notes, “The workplace is an important setting for obesity prevention. Strong leadership, a supportive culture and environment, workplace policy and systems can play an important role in supporting individual behaviour change. Focusing interventions only on individual behaviours fails to address the environmental and social factors influencing physical activity opportunity and food and beverage choices that predispose people to obesity.”

Spending time and money on the issue is a winning formula for companies.

The blueprint also notes, “When compared to healthy weight workers, obese workers have higher rates of absenteeism and presenteeism, reduced productivity, increased injury and illness, slower recovery and increased workers’ compensation costs.”

We work with resources companies’ right across the world and our experience shows that turning the tide on obesity is hard work and takes time, but it can be done.

So how do you tackle the problem?

You can’t manage what you can’t measure so that’s where you need to start.

We conduct medical screening in two ways. We circulate a medical questionnaire to all employees which asks a range of questions about their health and lifestyle. We then follow that up with face-to-face medical checks on site covering things like weight, height, blood pressure and cholesterol. It’s important to note these results are never used to exclude workers from their job. They are purely used to improve the health of the individual worker.

Our medical teams will then collate the data and with the results produce health trends for the workforce.

The next step is to overlay that with the company’s insurance claims data. This provides invaluable insights as to what medical issues are materialising as claimable incidents, and therefore the significant risks facing both the workforce and the company. Once you have full visibility on the health and wellbeing of an employee group you can start to identify where your improvements can be made.

Education action

Once you’ve identified the health risks facing your particular employee group you can then identify a short list of key risks facing that group that you want to address through action.

Toolbox talks are a great way to present the information in a fun and friendly environment. Smoking, food choices, obesity facts and food pyramids are some of the topics you can cover.

Posters around the site are a great way to provide bite sized pieces of information on healthy habits and health risks.
Regular check-ups on cholesterol, glucose and BMI are also a great way to track the progress of your actions across the group.

Providing the group with activity trackers is another way to educate your group on the amount of activity they are actually completing in one shift or while at site.

Our medics have also been getting groups together and downloading the Couch to 5K running app. They will, as a group, make a regular time to complete exercise. Many of these workers have not ever regularly exercised so it starts small. However as soon as one or two of the guys start to lose a few kilos, more workers inevitably show up to the sessions.

Circling back

After the pre-determined timeframe the whole screening process will be completed once again. The improvement the site employees have made to their health and wellbeing will be measured by ‘before’ and ‘after’ data. Return on Investment is then justified by the positive, statistical improvements under each wellness program.

As the blueprint notes, “Whilst there is evidence that workplace health promotion can have some impact on absenteeism and productivity, there is still much to be learnt about what approaches will prove to be the most effective in preventing and managing obesity in the workplace.”

Anything worth doing, takes time and effort and turning the tide on obesity for our resources workers is certainly worth it.

Read the Obesity Blueprint.

Contact Lynsey for more information on wellness programs for your organisation. 

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