Health Promotion in the Workplace: The Legal and Health Risks December 10th, 2010, by Ken Buckley

Any new initiative, whether it is a government policy or an internal organisation process, relies to a certain extend on rules and regulations. Moreover, health promotion officers and wellness anagers need to be able to define health promotion, and justify that the benefits of wellness initiatives are worth the costs and risks.

Lying within every health promotion in the workplace are rules and legal risks. The success of such initiatives depends on how an organisation is prepared for and responds to those risks.

Onsite Flu Vax

Flu vaccination is offered in many workplaces in Australia. Employees who are being vaccinated have to sign a waiver of legal liability. However, most waivers or disclaimers don’t cover risks such as poorly administered shots or incompatibility of a vaccine with a recipient. Prevention is better than cure so make sure you check the legal risks before rolling out the program.

Health Risk Appraisals (HRA)

HRA normally involve collecting personal information from your employees. Because of this, “the Privacy Act (Federal and State) will apply to the collection, use, storage, and disposal of the information and employees will have certain rights in respect of that information” says Health and Ageing Industry leader Paul McGinness. It is critical to clarify your and the HRA provider’s responsibility related to the data collection and storage.

Corporate Health Provider

Workplace Health and Wellness programs are nowadays mainly rolled out by external corporate health providers offering health education, and health promotion courses. A clear agreement or contract between your health promotion officer and the health provider should include the duties owed by both parties. There also needs to be a common understanding about obligations and confidentiality to prevent legal issues from occurring in your health promotion in the workplace,

Onsite Gym

When an organisation maintains an on-site gym, it is necessary for the Corporate Wellness Manager to hire properly trained fitness instructors who have received the appropriate training and certification to manage the gym and assist employees in exercising safely. Legal risks can also be managed by ensuring the facilities meet the appropriate standards and are regularly maintained.

Healthy Food

Providing food at meetings, business breakfasts and lunches, or corporate events carries obligations to comply with State and Capital Territory laws that regulate the preparation and quality of the food consumed. You may want to double check the disclaimers of your current catering company or canteen to prevent legal and health risks.

Health Education & Promotion

Most corporate health and wellness programs offer valuable health education to employees. The information is either provided online through an intranet or internet site, via brochures, booklets, posters and handouts, or as part of a health expo, a seminar or a workshop. The potential legal risks involved with health promotion in the workplace are numerous, and include incorrect and misleading information, copyright, moral right, and trade mark rights. A legal risk review of your health promotion programs is definitely the way to go.

For more information on Health Promotion in the Workplace, contact Healthworks on 1300 90 10 90 (International: IDD 61-2-9954-1888 ) and be sure to quote: “post482” for eligibility of Healthworks latest online offers and Corporate Health initiatives.

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