Improving working conditions and minimising risk to workers has been a growing concern across a wide array of workplaces and industries, with state and union initiatives urging for ongoing reduction of risk factors. And, while we are seeing the implementation of ever-improved occupational health and safety, there are still some areas that are lacking.
The UN (United Nations) annual Day of Safety and Health at Work initiative is an initiative to prevent injury and reduce health risks at work that stands to reiterate the importance of reducing risks at work we all need to embrace. While work accidents have been on a decline over the past decade until 2018, over the past few years this has, according to Safe Work Australia, climbed to over 120 000 serious injury claims and almost 200 deaths annually at workplaces across the country.
Workplace safety is, and will always be a priority – at least it should be. However, maintaining a healthy workforce takes a broader approach, one that reaches into worker wellness and preventative measures, says Dr Warrick Bishop.
“Prevention is always better than cure. Heart health is often overlooked when it comes to health at work and healthy workers,” says Dr Bishop, Australia’s foremost preventative cardiologist.
Heart attack kills one in 20 people and around 19 Australians a day. For many people who suffer from cardiovascular disease, death is often the first symptom. While lifestyle factors, general health, diet, body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and such are important indicators, genetics, stress levels and the lack of early heart health tests largely contribute to these statistics.
“Your workforce is one of the greatest assets in your business. Looking after the safety and health of your workforce certainly goes well beyond just accident prevention. Independent of the impact of loss and grief, reduced capacity and the hard journeys of recovery should a worker survive a heart attack, overall employers have to be aware and consider the risk of heart attack to their workers,” says Dr Bishop.
Around twenty percent of our population will experience cardiovascular disease and or heart attack. That means if you employ 300 people, 60 people are at risk of heart attack, many of which can happen at work. Many more of your workers may well be in the ever-growing intermediate-risk group – essentially younger, healthier workers with no visible or obvious risk indicators, yet real and pressing risk factors that can remain undetected unless tested for.
“Defibrillators are a great safety or response to heart attack and all workplaces should have them, but this is taking a tow-truck approach”, says Dr Bishop.
In Australia, we test for early detection of a number of common diseases that affect our population such as bowel cancer, breast cancer, and the like. Yet, when it comes to heart disease we don’t – yet it has been, and still remains, the biggest killer of our population and workers.
“There is a defined risk of heart attack for small, medium, and large organisations and workplaces, which no one seems to take seriously enough. If you knew that a good number of your workers are likely to have a work accident, you would put measures in place to prevent these, rather than simply have a first-aid kit on standby. Then why, when we know of the inherent risk that heart attacks pose to our workers, don’t we take a preventative approach and test our workers for heart health,” argues Dr Bishop.
As an employer, it is time to let the UN’s global initiative for Safety and Health at Work Day on 28th April be the inspiration to include checking your workforce for heart health. The Healthy Heart Network led by foremost preventative cardiologist Dr Bishop has set up a page where employers can access information on heart health, test options, and corporate testing – all available at www.virtualheartscan.com.au/
These are a great way to include heart health in your overall corporate employee health program and are a precursor to accessing the 3D heart imaging tests, which literally allow cardiologists to see inside our heart to determine heart health, applicable for employees who fall in the high and intermediate-risk groups.
Who wouldn’t rather undergo a quick 10-minute test or imaging than experience a heart attack? Let alone at work. With the UN’s Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28th April approaching – perhaps the initiatives we take in our workplaces ought to include heart health considerations and not just workplace safety measures. Here is to a safe and healthy workplace for all employees.