Heart health a key focus of Safety and Health at Work Day
The United Nations (UN) annual Day of Safety and Health at Work will take place on 28 April 2022. The Day of Safety and Health at Work is an initiative to prevent injury and reduce health risks at work; while work accidents have been on the decline over the past decade until 2018, data from Safe Work Australia revealed that work accidents have climbed to over 120,000 serious injury claims and almost 200 deaths annually over the past few years. Improving working conditions and minimising risk to workers has been a growing concern across a range of workplaces and industries, with state and union initiatives calling for ongoing reduction of risk factors. Workplace safety is, and always will be, a priority. However, maintaining a healthy workforce takes a broader approach, one that reaches into worker wellness and preventative measures, according to Dr Warrick Bishop, a leading Australian preventative cardiologist.
“Prevention is always better than cure. Heart health is often overlooked when it comes to health at work and healthy workers,” Bishop said.
Heart attacks reportedly kill one in 20 people and around 19 Australians a day. While lifestyle factors, general health, diet, body weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels 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,” Bishop said.
In Australia, testing is common for the early detection of common diseases that affect the population, such as bowel cancer and breast cancer. However, there is no testing for heart disease, despite it affecting a significant amount of the population. “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,” Bishop said.
Employers are encouraged to let the UN’s global initiative for Safety and Health at Work Day on 28 April be an opportunity to include checking their workforce’s heart health. To facilitate this, the Heart Healthy Network has set up a page where employers can access information on heart health, test options and corporate testing. This can help employers include heart health in their overall corporate employee health program and serve as a precursor to accessing 3D heart imaging tests, which allow cardiologists to determine heart health and are applicable for employees who fall in the high and intermediate risk groups.
Employers are encouraged to include heart health considerations, along with workplace safety measures, as part of the initiatives implemented to improve worker safety and wellbeing.
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