Pear packer wellness halves workers’ comp costs
In six minutes a day, Duckwall-Pooley Fruit Co. cut workers’ compensation premiums in half. The Odell company requires employees to physically prepare for packing the thousands of premium pears they ship around the world.
At the beginning of the 7 a.m. shift, an exercise leader guides workers with 10 neck-, arm- and wrist-stretching exercises. “They just know to do it,” says Kathy Nishimoto, vice president and director of human resources. Company president Fred Duckwall often joins them.
The 15-year-old program has helped the family-owned company reduce workers’ compensation premiums from $1.50 per $1,000 in wages to 87 cents per $1,000.
Duckwall-Pooley’s 300 employees also enjoy other wellness benefits:
Weekly In addition, each week the company brings in a massage therapist to help relieve employee muscle tension, and a nurse to help them manage everything from diabetes and blood pressure to depression and child-rearing issues. It also has set aside a room as a “new moms’ station” where nursing employees can express and store milk.
“It all pays off,” Nishimoto says. “We’re not out there trying to get attention. We’re just doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.”
School staff models wellness for kids
At Medford’s Griffin Creek Elementary School, a gym bag, workout video, bike helmet and low-fat salad compete for space with that apple on the teacher’s desk.
“We’re a pretty healthy staff to begin with,” says Ginny Hicks, Griffin Creek’s principal. But the 50-person staff got a wellness boost with an OEA Choice Trust Wellness Grant that helped the school integrate physical activity and nutrition into the daily activities—with overall results:
• 4 percent drop in collective body mass index
• 11 percent drop in body fat
• 22 percent increase in flexibility
• 300-pound total weight loss
The key, says Hicks, is variety. Griffen Creek hosts staff health screenings through partner YMCA; after-school classes, including fitness, cooking, and yoga; health lectures; tasty and nutritious soup competitions; weight-loss challenges; and a library of employee-donated wellness books.
What sustains Griffin Creek’s culture of health, says Hicks, “is when you have personal success and when you’re surrounded by other people who are taking steps to improve.”
Samaritan uses ‘carrots’ to lure employees to eat well
Samaritan Health embodies wellness. All five hospitals and 70 clinics in the mid-Willamette Valley and the Central Oregon Coast are tobacco-free. Employees can take health risk appraisals and get health coaching, subsidized gym memberships or community fitness classes.
In 2011, the 5,100-member health system added healthy foods to its wellness menu. Two hospital cafeterias use a carrot symbol to mark foods with four of these: increased fiber content through fruits, vegetables and/or whole grains; decreased total fat; decreased saturated fat; decreased trans fat; and decreased cholesterol.
The new food choices are nutritious, delicious, and cost 20 percent less, says Dana Train, R.D., L.D., Samaritan Health Service’s nutrition manager. She calls the hospital cafeterias “the best restaurants in town.”
Employees support the program, designed last year by a committee that includes the health system’s chief financial officer, head physician, registered dietitians, and representatives from marketing and nutrition services.
Joshua Gustafson, health and wellness program manager for Samaritan Health Services, says Samaritan Health’s culture of health pays off with healthier employees and bottom-line savings. But he contends that any organization can boost wellness: “Start with a small program. Evaluate the results. Then, add something.”
Former smoking huts shelter employee bikes
The huts where employees used to puff now shelter bicycles. That’s because the Boeing Co. made its Gresham site tobacco free in 2008. The shelter transformation capped a yearlong effort to:
• Engage employees and leaders in the journey to tobacco free
• Provide resources to help employees quit
• Build employee awareness through robust communications
Boeing was a pioneer nationally, offering employees the Quit for Life telephone cessation program in 2003, said Robin Bloom, business operations senior project manager. The rate of tobacco use among Boeing employees “has continued on the same slope since the policy was implemented,” she said.
The tobacco free campus delivers a message, said Bloom. “The company wanted to provide a healthy workplace for employees and project a positive image to visitors, customers and the communities where our employees live and work.”
School district wellness program saves life, money
Wellness saved Anthony Johnson’s life. The curriculum director for Baker School District knew he had high blood pressure. But results from his on-site screening alarmed the OEA Choice Trust program manager who screened Johnson, then advised him to see the doctor. Johnson heeded the advice and, “after a regimen of medications,” Johnson’s blood pressure and cholesterol levels are now normal.
He is not the only person who benefits from Baker School District’s wellness program, funded through a grant from OEA Choice Trust. The district tallies:
• A reduced rate of overweight and obesity
• Less hypertension and lower levels of bad cholesterol
• An 11 percent drop in substitute teacher costs because of fewer sick days
The program has changed conversations in Baker School District, said Barry Nemec, district director of special education and wellness coordinator. He credits a program that measures “body age” through screenings, including blood pressure, body mass index, and bicep strength. Employees ask each other, “Did you hear what my body age was?”
Screened employees can take community supported classes, ranging from Zumba dancing to healthy cooking and yoga. “It has motivated people to make life-long changes in their diet and exercise,” Nemec says.
Albany garden plot reaps health
City of Albany human resources director Danette DeSaulnier enjoys nothing more than seeing the vegetables on the break room table disappear. The popular treats are harvested from the city’s new community garden plot: “It’s all taken, whether it’s squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant.” DeSaulnier also distributes recipes for preparing them.
In May 2010, the city rented a plot in the Willamette Community Garden, eight blocks from City Hall. The employee-tended garden provides them with healthy food—and exercise.
The city wellness committee paid $20 for the plot and another $20 for vegetable starts. A month after planting, vegetables were coming in. “I like to put things out that employees might not have tried,” DeSaulnier says.
Planning company ‘pedals’ wellness for communities, employees
Alta Planning & Design practices what it preaches. The 15-year-old Portland company strives to “create active communities where bicycling and walking are safe, healthy, and fun.” Employee perks reflect the mission:
- $125 annual bike tune-up reimbursement
- Onsite indoor storage for up to 50 bikes
- A shower, washer and dryer for post-commute clean-up
- Loaner bikes for short trips by employees or visitors
Mia Birk, company president and longtime bicycling advocate, says, “Our culture is about active transportation—incorporating exercise into our daily life by how we get around.” But wellness is not just a fringe benefit. In her view, it is essential to success: “It reduces cost and stress, and increases productivity.”