Celebrating health and wellness

by 03 Apr 2007

An increasing number of organisations are looking at health and wellness initiatives. Carole Goldsmith looks at how a number of organisations get their workforce involved in such initiatives

More than 3,500 employees, contractors and their families attended BlueScope Steel’s Port Kembla Steelwork’s ‘Health and Lifestyle Big Day Out’ last year. This was the major event of the 2006 ‘Take 2 for your Health’ program conducted at the Steelworks and neighbouring companies throughout June.

Steelworks employs approximately 3,500 employees and 2,000 contractors. “The whole idea of the day was to expose employees, contractors and their families to a range of health information, plus have their health checked. It was also hoped that individuals would take responsibility for their own wellbeing and health management,” says Chris Darling, manager of safety, health and risk, Australia and New Zealand Industrial Markets for BlueScope Steel.

The event included sporting and fitness activities by local clubs. Community groups offered health, wellbeing, nutrition displays and advice, plus checks on weight, blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol.

Health and safety on show for 20 years

Boeing subsidiary Hawker de Havilland is located in Port Melbourne, and holds a health and safety day annually in September.

All employees at the company down their tools for an extended one-hour lunch break to participate in fitness exercises, nutritious eating and health check profiles. The plant is adorned with health and safety awareness posters and signs.

As organiser of the event for the past 20 years, Hawker de Havilland’s OHS nurse, Christina Scholes, planning for the day starts around six months prior to the event. She builds this in with her busy OHS training and risk prevention schedule.

“The day is an important part of our year round emphasis on Hawker de Havilland’s employee health, safety and wellbeing and to get them to work proactively at work to prevent injuries, and also to improve their lifestyle at work and at home,” Scholes says.

On the health and safety day, the staff canteen area comes alive with activities including tai-chi, yoga and other exercises. The National Heart Foundation provides employees and managers with heath education and the opportunity to skip the rope in their “jump for life” program. The Cancer Council offers awareness on skin and other cancers.

Healthy food companies give out samples and the canteen provides a nutritious lunch. Employees line up at the health promotion company’s stand to have their blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar levels and weight tested. While follow up health checks are provided if levels are elevated. Also on offer are displays of personal protective clothing and native plants.

“Health promotion activities have been an important part of the Steelworks OHS program for at least the past ten years. We are planning a much larger day for 2007, with a target figure of 7,000 to 8,000 attendees,” Darling says.

“Having a healthy, balanced lifestyle is really important,” says Hawker de Havilland’s safety, health and environmental affairs manager, David Atkinson. “This day informs and reminds employees about measures available to minimise the risk of injury in the workplace. Increasingly, Christina is involving organisations that also provide guidance about a balanced, healthy diet and achieving a suitable level of fitness.”

As concerns about issues such as climate change and water resources grow, Atkinson says it is quite likely the company will build on current initiatives and provide more environmental information in future.

Work-life balance at Westpac

The people and performance group within the Westpac Banking Group monitors and implements all health and wellness programs for employees. Globally, the company employs more than 27,000 people.

“Westpac provides its employees with a range of services to maintain a healthy work-life balance,” says Andrew Niven, head of employee health and safety, employee shared services, Westpac. “Our health and wellness programs include counselling and childcare services, community involvement, eldercare, an employee assistance foundation, parenting (flexible work and childcare options) and telecommuting.”

The bank is also committed to acting responsibly with customers and the community, according to Niven. Westpac has recently launched a counselling service for Agribusiness customers as well as mental health awareness workshops for employees in drought affected areas.

“Our health and wellness programs are aimed at assisting all employees, including management, to better balance their work, personal, home and other responsibilities at any stage.”

Westpac ran its first major wellbeing expo recently for more than 800 employees at its headquarters in Sydney. The expo featured workshops and health checks by Westpac’s Employee Advantage Partners. Seminars on techniques to manage work-life balance, strength and flexibility tests, healthy heart checks, body-mass index test and three-minute Harvard step tests were also offered.

Good OHS and corporate health and wellness go hand in hand in helping to make Westpac a great place to work, according to Niven. “Employees who feel happy about themselves are more likely to satisfy the demands of their work,” he says.