If everyone in the U.S. received the recommended preventive care, it could save 100,000 lives each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For electrician unions, a strong health insurance plan that offers preventive services gives members the tools to improve their well-being and address common health problems before they develop into serious conditions.
Board members can help by educating members of electrician unions about the top health risks they face, while making members aware of resources available to help them improve their health.
Helping Electricians Overcome Health Challenges
For electricians, working long hours in cramped spaces that may expose them to potentially toxic materials can take a heavy toll on the body. Common health issues that electricians may face include:
- Back pain. Lifting heavy objects and maneuvering into tight spaces can be taxing for the back muscles, and hours spent standing can add to the problem. One study showed that standing five hours a day contributes to significant lower-limb muscle fatigue, which may raise the risk for long-term back pain and musculoskeletal disorders. Electricians can avoid back problems by building core strength. If a member is injured while working, many health insurance plans will cover visits to a specialist or chiropractor.
- Obesity. Long, busy workdays often lead to fatigue, and for many electricians a routine workout isn't possible. Combine a lack of regular exercise with the wide availability of unhealthy food on the go, and it's easy for members to unintentionally gain weight. One study found that retired blue-collar workers had a higher BMI than other retirees. Obesity increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes, but taking advantage of most insurance plans' yearly wellness exams can make it easier for members to track their BMI and get help with improving their diet and exercise regimen, if needed. Some insurance plans also cover group medical visits, where participants work together to achieve health goals like losing weight. Some plans include nutritionist visits as well.
- Heart disease. One study found that workers in service or blue-collar jobs under age 55 have a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Work stress, noise, secondhand smoke and particulate matter all pose a threat to a member's health. Medical treatment can help smokers find a way to quit for good. Through health insurance and annual exams that might include bloodwork and an electrocardiogram, workers can monitor their heart health.
- Chemical exposure. Electricians are sometimes exposed to dangerous materials, including asbestos, as part of their everyday work — particularly when repairing existing wiring while remodeling older buildings. Former electricians are one of the highest-risk groups for asbestos-related diseases. Yearly wellness checkups help members catch symptoms early, and health insurance coverage may cover tests like X-rays or chest CT scans.
Addressing Health Concerns With Insurance Coverage
Your members should be familiar with their benefits under their health insurance plan. Many plans fully cover an annual wellness exam, which typically include checking weight and blood pressure. Some wellness screenings also include cholesterol and diabetes tests, although those may cost extra. Many plans also cover preventive care like an annual well-woman exam, a mammogram or a colorectal cancer screening for adults over 50.
However, one study found that very few adults receive all the preventive care services recommended to them, even though they could slow the rising rate of chronic disease in the U.S. Obesity, tobacco use and physical inactivity are all "winnable battles," according to the CDC, and ones that can be addressed with strong health insurance.
Board members can improve electricians' work lives by making it possible for them to improve their overall health — and it starts with education. When union members are healthy, they're less likely to miss work and better able to be productive team members.
Make sure members take advantage of their health insurance. Open enrollment is a good time to communicate with members about the specifics of their health plan and its benefits. Consider reviewing major benefits during a union meeting or writing a blurb with plan highlights for your union newsletter. An extra reminder gives more members a chance to take full advantage of their benefits.
With 15 years' experience writing for publications including The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, The Christian Science Monitor and Newsday — Deborah Blumberg specializes in business and finance and health and wellness. She writes about topics including corporate communications, financial markets, real estate, renewable energy, cancer, health education, nutrition, supplements, the microbiome and functional medicine. She was a Knight Center fellow and a Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism fellow. Her time working in marketing and communications at JPMorgan Chase taught her how to best tell a company's story. She's adept at turning complex ideas into compelling copy. She's also an officer of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and a Women in the Visual and Literary Arts board member, and she is fluent in Spanish.