ECIS' Vicki Leslie discusses the importance of health assessments in the construction sector.
As a specialist provider of health and employee benefits for the construction sector, ECIS sees and hears first-hand how health assessments provide a bit of a wake-up call to help motivate changes in lifestyle, as well as highlight underlying issues so that action can be taken where necessary.
Sometimes they can even make the difference between life and death. It goes without saying that health issues can seriously impact lives and livelihood, but with people working much later in life, staying healthy becomes even more important.
Over one-third of construction workers who attended a health assessment last year were diagnosed with a health condition they didn’t know they had
In the construction sector there is, as you might expect, a predominantly male workforce, many of whom are of the ‘ignore it and carry on’ school of healthcare. In quite a ‘macho’ environment, getting workers to admit they have a health problem can be very difficult.
But what ECIS has found is that if you can encourage someone to take time out of their schedule to have a health assessment, you stand a much better chance of getting them engaged in their health and wellbeing.
Last year ECIS arranged health assessments for more than 800 construction workers. This was an achievement in itself, because many of these workers are never in one place for long and tend to be paid by the hour or day.
As such, they can be reluctant to put the time aside for a health assessment and all too often it is something that gets filed in the ‘I’ll get round to it when I have the time’ box.
Nevertheless, by providing education and support, we managed to arrange the assessments, and at the risk of reinforcing stereotypes, we found that many of these workers were facing serious health issues.
While psychological well-being was the area of least concern, when it came to their physical health, we found a high propensity for inactivity, high blood pressure, higher than average levels of alcohol consumption, ans high BMIs and diabetes risks.
For these workers the health assessments provided help and support on how improvements could be made and in some cases helped identify a health problem they were not aware they had.
In fact, over one-third of those who attended an assessment last year went away having been diagnosed with a health problem that they did not know they had.
While it is often something that can be relatively easy to fix, occasionally it is a very serious condition, as in the case of the gentleman who discovered he had aggressive prostate cancer during a routine health assessment.
The benefits to employers of providing access to health assessments or other forms of health-based packages are obvious: healthier people make more productive and happier workers.
Effective medical insurance policies can help provide a ‘belt and braces’ approach to keeping tradespeople at work, rather than off sick, and this does not need to be hugely expensive or complicated.
Many of our customers are small firms, and insurance products such as cash plans are the ideal way to ensure that they are looking after themselves.
For a small monthly layout – often as little as £1 a week per person – the policies provide cash back up to an annual limit against some everyday health expenses such as opticians and dental treatments.
With a prevalence of musculoskeletal issues in the construction sector, cash plans also provide access to physiotherapists, osteopaths and chiropractors without need for a GP referral.
In any business, employee health is important, but in the construction sector, which is reliant on the physical condition of its employees, and which faces a severe skills shortage, employers really do need to support the health and wellbeing of their people. A health assessment is certainly a good place to start. After all, prevention is better than cure.
Vicki Leslie is business development executive at ECIS
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