/ Worksite Wellness / The Highest Corporate Fitness Program – Medical Absenteeism in a Mining Company

The Highest Corporate Fitness Program – Medical Absenteeism in a Mining Company

Jorge Osorio

An open pit mine with gas escaping into the air.

Abstract: The aim of this study was to define the effect of a corporate fitness program on medical absenteeism in a mining operation at 4,500 meters above sea level. 110 workers of a copper mining company in Chile who participated in a fitness/wellness program were studied. Total number of lost days in the clients group was 267 with a mean absenteeism of 2.15 + 1.15 percent. The number of lost days per worker was 2.4. Furthermore, non-clients group had a mean absenteeism of 6 + 2.1 with a total of 790 lost days and 7.7 lost days per worker. An ROI of 1.6 was found. These results could suggest a relationship between corporate fitness and medical absenteeism in a mining operation at 4,500 m above sea level.

INTRODUCTION

Although there is some controversy (Dishman and Oldenburg, 1998), corporate health promotion strategies are related to lower absenteeism and health costs (Aldana, 2001; Osorio 2001; Okada, 1991), and return on investment of between 2 and 6 per each invested dollar (Bertera 1990; Okada 1991; Osorio, 2001).

Corporate fitness programs improve health-related fitness components of workers (Yuan et al., 2009) and solve musculoskeletal disturbances (Proper et al., 2003; Osorio 2009).

All corporate fitness and wellness studies, and their relationship on key performance indicators, have been done at sea level and there is no available information for companies at high altitude where hypobaric hypoxia presents a challenge for the human physiology and performance.

The aim of this study was to define the effect of a corporate fitness program on medical absenteeism in a mining operation at 4,500 meters above sea level.

MATERIAL AND METHODS

Subjects:

110 workers (102 men and 8 women; age= 35.5 + 6.6 yr.; weight 77.9 + 11.4 kg; height= 1.72 + 0.06 m) of a copper mining company in Chile who participated in a fitness/wellness program were studied.

The gym is located at 4,500 meters above sea level and is one of the highest gyms in the world.

A control group who never participated in the activities was used.

Body mass index and body composition were estimated.

Program

The voluntary wellness/fitness program included activities and group sessions such as aerobics, yoga, Pilates, stretching, personal training, resistance training, nutritional coaching, safety, wellness newsletter, physical fitness testing, workshops and suggestions for safe exercise and healthy lifestyles during rest at sea level (Figure 1).

Figure 1: In (a) an exercise and health workshop is shown. In (b) a body composition estimation in (c) a group of workers working out and (d) an aerobic group session.

Several control testing in aerobic sessions were done due to environmental requirements of hypobaric hypoxia with lower SaO2 levels and higher heart rate in submaximal exercises.

Subjects working shifts of 7 by 7 during (7 days at 4500 m and 7 days off duty at sea level) with 12 hours of work daily. This is a chronic intermittent exposure to hypobaric hypoxia (Richalet et al., 2004; Farias et al., 2006; Osorio et al., 2000).

Next figure shows this model of exposure (Figure 2):


Figure 2: Model of chronic intermittent exposure to high altitude.

When exercise is done at high altitude ventilation and heart rate are higher for the same submaximal task performed at sea level. These physiological responses do not fully compensate the hypoxia effect on VO2max and aerobic performance and is reduced in 30 percent.

Absenteeism

The study consists on a follow up of medical absenteeism and physical fitness during 9 months.
Considering the adherence level to the program, workers were categorized in high, medium and low adherence.

The criteria for the categories were:
High: Adherence between 60 percent and more
Medium: Adherence between 40 and 59 percent
Low: Adherence between 39 percent and 20 percent.

Clients with an adherence level lower than 20 percent were not considered.

According to the shift system of workers we used a total number of 14 days per month per each subject as the next equation shows:

(DA x 100)
(14 x NT)

Ad= Absenteeism days
14= Number of monthly day work per worker
Wn= Number of workers

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Fat percent reduced from 28.5 + 5 to 27.1 + 3, 9 (p< 0.01; SE = 0.596). No statistical differences were found in BMI and lean body mass because our program included resistance exercises, which could explain this occurrence.

Clients group missed 267 days due to medical absenteeism being higher in February as next figure shows:

Figure 3: Lost days per month in clients group.

In the clients group the high adherence category showed the lower missed days (33 days), medium adherence with 80 and low adherence as high as 154 missed days (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Lost days in the clients group and their adherence level.

The high adherence group showed the lower lost days with 33 days during the 9 months of follow up.

The next figure shows monthly medical absenteeism of clients and non-clients and from a similar initial level during January, absenteeism become higher in non-clients group and lower in clients group.

Figure 5: Monthly medical absenteeism of clients (blue) and non-clients (red).

A statistical difference was found (p< 0,001; t = 4.8366; SE= 0, 79).

Total number of lost days in the clients group was 267 with a mean absenteeism of 2.15 + 1.15 percent. The number of lost days per worker was 2.4.

Furthermore, non-clients group had a mean absenteeism of 6 + 2.1 with a total of 790 lost days and 7.7 lost days per worker (Figure 9).

The difference of lost days between non-clients and clients group was 523 days.

Figure 6: Lost days in clients and non-clients group.

According to the income salaries of workers the clients group cost US$ 18,690 in medical leaves and the non-clients group cost US$ 55,300. This difference is of US$ 36,610.

Figure 7: Economic impact of lost days in clients and non-clients group.

Some controversy exists related to the lower level of absenteeism in a characteristic of healthy workers and not exactly a direct effect of specific strategies (Baum et al., 1986). This fact could be suggested because in this study has not found a statistical correlation between physiologic and anthropometric results and number of lost days.

Financial costs due to absenteeism of clients and their level of adherence is shown in the next figure.

Figure 8: Economic costs of lost days and level of adherence (US$).

These results could suggest a saving cost of US$ 36,610 or US$ 333 per each worker. Because the total cost of the program in 9 months was US$ 22,800 we have a return of investment of 1.6.

This study focused on medical absenteeism and ROI and did not consider other issues as productivity, corporate climate and staff retention. This is a challenge for future research due to the competitive mining market.

The ROI found in this study is low and could be explained by the shorter follow up although rentability level is similar to previous experiences as Union Life and Prudent Life (Figure 12).

Figure 9: ROI of several corporate wellness and fitness program.

Longer studies in mining operations are required in order to determine when these medical absenteeism indicators are stabilized. A previous study showed a higher effect in the first year of follow up (Bertera 1990). For example, a study of Bertera (Bertera 1990), found that ROI was lesser in the first year of follow up (1, 1 in the first year and 2, 05 in the second one) due to initial implementation costs of the program.

Pelletier (1999) and Aldana (2001) reviewed 11 and 72 studies, respectively and concluded that in company health promotion programs are related to lower risks and health costs.

Programs based on a variety of physical activities, workshops on lifestyle, counseling and follow up have higher results on health and company indicators (Voit 2001)

This study only considered non-planified medical absenteeism. This is a global view with a limited level of specificity (including respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases, surgery) related with the aspects where physical activity can impact as low back pain, hypertension, mental and metabolic disorders and obesity.

In conclusion these results could suggest a relationship between corporate fitness and medical absenteeism in a mining operation at 4,500 m above sea level.

About the Author

Jorge Osorio is a physical education teacher with a Master degree in Exercise Science. He is the owner of the company Jorge Osorio Ltd., the first Latin-American company that got ISO 9001:2008 in Physical Fitness and Ergonomics. He is the author of more than 150 international papers and 9 books. He received the Latin-American Award Mercado Fitness. The Fitness Business Latin-American Magazine from Brazil said “the results of his studies and programs have been beneficial for companies and workers all over the world”.

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