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Personal coaching aims to trim workers’ comp, boost employee health

University of California employees who are at high risk for workplace injuries will be offered free, personalized wellness coaching as part of an innovative effort to reduce UC’s workers’ compensation costs and improve employee health.

UC already has cut employee injuries by nearly 40 percent since 2004. The dramatic reduction is the result of a program that carefully analyzes the cause of workplace injuries and then provides training and equipment to reduce the chance of a second occurrence.

Grace Crickette, UC’s chief risk officer, hopes to eventually reduce employee injuries to zero — there were 5,057 last year — and she is launching UC’s Occupational Wellness program as part of that strategy.

“We’ve seen amazing results from pilot programs at some of our campuses,” Crickette said. “The program takes a holistic view of what an employee needs — whether it’s strength training or help with their diet — and helps that employee make changes that can really improve their chances of not being injured again.”

For example, UC San Francisco offered wellness coaching to a group of 73 employees, all of whom who had suffered more than one workplace injury. Four years after completing the coaching program, only a single one of those workers had been injured again.

With such compelling evidence that wellness coaching can further reduce on-the-job injuries, the program will be offered at all UC locations beginning in October.

Employees who are being treated for an on-the-job injury will be evaluated by their workers’ comp physician for wellness coaching that could help reduce the risk of another workplace injury.

Those who are deemed a good fit for the program will be offered 12 weeks of free personalized coaching plus access to the full range of fitness classes offered by their local sports recreation departments. At the end of the coaching session, employees will receive an additional six months of free access to UC sports and rec centers.

The program was developed with the expertise and collaborative support of staff at UC’s wellness programs, as well as those in occupational health and sports recreation, Crickette said.

Dr. John Stobo, UC senior vice president for health sciences and services, said the innovative effort reflects the fact that UC puts a priority on the well-being of its employees.

“Nothing is more important to the health of the University of California than the health of its employees,” Stobo said. “This wellness initiative shows UC’s commitment to the health of one of its most valuable assets – its employees.”

Crickette expects that the program will help UC reduce its cost for treating workplace injuries — and will have the data to demonstrate that effectiveness within a year. But she agreed with Stobo that the program is about more than just saving money.

“Our goal is to create a sustained, lifetime change for the employees who need it most,” Crickette said. “This kind of workplace program can really change lives.”

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