Economic analyses of investments in safety and health at work
Occupational safety and health is under the pressure of legitimacy due to its costs. However, model calculations show that investments in safety and health are worthwhile in the long term. This applies to both national and company measures.
The estimation of loss of production (wage costs) and gross added value (loss of labour productivity) due to incapacity for work indicates a potential for prevention and possible utility potential from a macroeconomic point of view. These estimates of the national economic losses caused by incapacity for work are, on the one hand, data on the sick leave of about 30 million members of the statutory health insurance from 2014. On the other hand, the economists are adding data to the national accounts of the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis).
With an average incapacity for work of 14.4 days per employee, 2014 saw a total of 543.4 million days of incapacity for work. Out of this volume of disability, the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates the total national economic loss of production in the economy as a whole of € 57 billion, or the loss of gross added value of € 90 billion.
Company concepts to improve safety and health at work must be designed to prevent health impairments and to ensure the well-being of employees as a basis for commitment and competitiveness. This raises the question which measures are sensible for which company - in terms of the effectiveness of the measures, but also in relation to their cost-benefit ratio.
Measures for the safety and health of workers are carried out in companies in order to comply with legal requirements, for financial reasons and for moral reasons, in this order. The desire to contribute to the (financial) corporate objectives with investments in safety and health is therefore of great importance for companies. In this context, two central questions are raised:
The first question also concerns the proof that health has a causal effect on economic success. In view of the complexity of companies, the question is difficult to answer. Studies that adduce absentism or the reduction of treatment costs as a success variable, have reliable results for the effectiveness and partly also for the cost-effectiveness of certain measures in occupational health promotion.
Regarding the productivity, quality or even published financial figures of companies, this can only be observed to a limited extent. In evaluations of the productivity effects of OSH measures or more complex investments in human resources, there is a uniform tendency that investments in safety and personnel are positively linked to the success of the company. This leads to the second question raised about methods for the continuous and systematic management of health programmes.
There are a number of concepts for different target groups or lobbies.
The literature offers a variety of methods for evaluating individual measures included in complex bundles as well as for evaluating the human capital of companies. With great interest, companies have adopted a promising concept that is based on the principle of Balanced Scorecard according to Kaplan and Norton.