Changing Workforce / Industrial Safety

Linking worker productivity, community health in U.S. manufacturing plants

By Health Affairs

Oct 16, 2018

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New research suggests that the successful expansion of the manufacturing industry will be tied, in part, to the health status of manufacturing communities. Using employee-level human resources data from four large, diverse manufacturing plants located in four different states, researchers found that hourly employees living in counties with poor community health outcomes (according to County Health Rankings and as indicated by measures of the social determinants of health) had considerably higher rates of absenteeism (that is, failed to report for scheduled work).

Managers and hourly employees who work in these affected plants report that poor community health (for example, poverty, caregiving burdens, family dysfunction, or drug use) negatively impacted their performance at work. Specifically, it created “mental stress” leading to distraction, absences, irritability, and, more rarely, lapses in safety. Said one manager:

"Actually, that’s probably our number one issue with people now missing work, because of stress-related issues, often from an outside family issue. I hate to say this, but more people are getting into drugs and alcohol abuse, and stuff like that…There was a lady who quit the other day because of a family member. She felt like she needed to stay home and take care of her family member, because they have a bad drug problem."

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