A B.C. HYDRO EMPLOYEE IS SERIOUSLY INJURED IN A BIKE accident. He suffers shoulder and head injuries and requires lengthy medical care. But with the aid of his physician and a return-to-work coordinator, his abilities are assessed and an action plan drawn up. Following treatment, the individual returns to his desk on a new schedule—one with shortened working hours—and a new ergonomic design that promotes recovery. He is monitored throughout to ensure his workload isn’t excessive. In the end, the employee has his health and job back. And B.C. Hydro has kept an employee from falling through the cracks.

Ron Monk, B.C. Hydro’s manager of corporate sustainability in Vancouver, tells the story with a certain pride. It’s an example of B.C. Hydro’s mission of not only launching health programs but following up to ensure they’re working. “Caring for your employees so that they’re able to work obviously has benefits to [a company] but it’s good socially as well,” he says.

Monk is part of a group that spearheaded B.C. Hydro’s mandate of corporate sustainability back in 2000—a move that had led to the creation of a triple bottom line reporting system. Though not a new concept—several Canadian oil and gas companies follow a similar model—B.C. Hydro’s full-scale adoption serves as an example of the importance of following up on health initiatives.

Instead of merely releasing one annual financial report, the company reports three different ways: socially, financially and environmentally. “We want to be in business for a long time and in order to do that, we need to be environmentally responsible, we need to be responsible in terms of the impacts we have on society and people and also be financially viable and responsible,” says Monk.

B.C. Hydro also releases information about the health initiatives it has undertaken and how effective they are proving to be. One report that is included under “social reporting” is the B.C. Hydro Annual Health Report—a 50-page document detailing the company’s health-related accomplishments, employees’ health profiles, health screen results, long-term disability(LTD)rates and proposed health initiatives for 2005. It’s on B.C. Hydro’s intranet for all employees to access. “One of the things with health management is getting the numbers out there so people can see them—then that sort of raises the profile and it gets managed that way,” explains Wanda Morris, an independent consultant with B.C. Hydro in Vancouver.

The programs that B.C. Hydro sponsors include a lifestyles program in which employees are encouraged to use a subsidized on-site fitness facility and rewarded for their healthy behavior, smoking cessation and alcohol abuse support plans, health screens in which employees can be assessed for potential problems and back-to work programs that facilitate recovery and the transition from home to the office. They are all evaluated; those that don’t work are overhauled.

“Our sick leave and our long-term disability [in some divisions] have made some pretty significant drops,” Morris says. But hurdles remain to be addressed. Overall, LTD claims saw one of the biggest increases in costs in 2004—with a 42% jump to $526,000 out of an overall company healthcare bill of $14.6 million.

For that reason, Morris says the focus in 2005 is becoming more preventative, with employees encouraged to attend health screenings and then monitored throughout the year about steps they are taking to reduce the health risk. She says the company decided to devote more attention to those employees unaware of their health conditions. The new focus also works well with the changing demographics of B.C. Hydro; it has a rapidly aging workforce experiencing new healthcare needs.

“I think it helps employees to see that they work for a responsible company,” says Monk. “It’s good for the people who work here, it’s good for society, it’s good for our customers.”

Anna Sharratt is associate editor of BENEFITS CANADA.


Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.

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