Are blue collar workers more active than their white-collar counterparts? The answer is mixed as Scandinavian research has found that while construction trades people’s jobs impart short bursts of moderately high activity, that activity does not improve cardiovascular fitness or help maintain body habitus or control weight. Further, this population of workers thinks they’re getting sufficient exercise but are not as demonstrated by research performed in Boston, which had construction workers wear a measuring device while performing their jobs. Self-reported estimates of activity far exceeded the actual measured levels.
“Construction workers typically wake up at 4 am and drive 30-120 minutes to a job site for a 6 am start,” noted Dr. Burress MD, MPH, FACOEM, Principal at OccMed Consulting & Injury Care. “These workers can’t hit a fitness facility on their lunch break and they grab food from a food truck or nearby fast food restaurants. Some workers are motivated enough to frequent gyms after or rarely before work but many are too tired.”
Dr. Burress notes that barriers to wellness for these workers include the lack of time for exercise, residuals from prior injuries, and early joint degeneration that limit activity choices. Further, these workers whose benefits are contingent on days worked often lack down-time to recover from musculoskeletal discomforts. In addition, many trades people carry residuals from prior sports injuries. This can lead to unchecked weight gain as workers age and high on-the-job injury rates, which can ultimately create a downward spiral with career-ending implications.
How can employers help blue collar workers overcome the barriers to wellness? What are the needs of this population and how can these needs be met? What solutions can employers offer such employees facing daunting challenges to improving wellness? Hear from Dr. Burress at this year’s virtual Emerging Trends in Wellness Conference on April 1 to learn more. Dr. Burress will address these issues and potential solutions in his session “Barriers to Wellness in Blue Collar Workers: Implications and Potential Solutions.”
Conference registrants will also hear from Bill Aalerud, Senior Vice President at Columbia Construction during an industry panel that will focus on industry-specific trends and best practices in employee well-being. As the head of a company in the construction industry that has invested in wellness for its workforce, Bill will discuss Columbia’s wellness initiatives and the positive impact on its employees. Bill notes Columbia faces a unique set of challenges – their wellness programs must reach and be inclusive of 167 employees, which includes nearly a third of employees located on remote jobsites managing projects and subcontractors.
“As Columbia developed its wellness program with Wellness Workdays, our cardinal rule has been that every decision we make must consider the field staff and how they can participate and benefit in a similar way to the office staff,” said Bill. “By adhering to this rule and having field staff on our wellness committee, I believe we have found success seeing the field staff participate in many of the activities and challenges.”
In addition to learning how construction companies can implement a successful wellness program, Bill will discuss his ideas about navigating wellness program challenges during the coronavirus pandemic and how some of the elements of their program, originally designed for field staff, can be deployed to Columbia’s office staff that is now working at home.