Fedweek

Federal agencies overall “continue to sustain and improve worksite health and wellness programs,” OPM has said, but still fall short in certain areas, including in complying with legal requirements to support nursing mothers in their workforces.

OPM’s “WellCheck” assessment, covering 181 worksites across 31 agencies, assigned points for compliance with law and guidance on health promotion and safety initiatives ranging from encouraging employees to take the stairs rather than the elevator to conducting training on avoiding accidents. Scores averaged 67 percent, ranging from 32 to 100 percent by worksite.

The most commonly followed practices included encouraging reporting of injuries and near misses, having automated external defibrillators available, and promoting use of flu vaccinations.

“On average, agencies scored the highest in addressing vaccine-preventable diseases, occupational health and safety, and tobacco-free living,” a memo says. “Agencies have the most room for improvement in the areas of nutrition, organizational supports, and supports for nursing employees.”

Regarding the latter, OPM noted that only 87 percent were in compliance with a law requiring them to provide a private space other than a restroom to express breast milk and to provide flexible scheduling, unpaid break times, and/or paid break times for that purpose. Guidance, although not law, encourages agencies to make healthy food and beverage choices available in their vending machines, cafeterias and snack bars, provide nutritional information beyond what is on a product’s label, and identify healthier choices with signs or symbols.

“Agencies should carefully review their WellCheck results related to nutrition and lactation support, identify program gaps, and create action plans to improve these areas to the maximum extent possible,” OPM said.

Agencies also should emphasize the availability of prevention benefits through the FEHB program and encourage employees to use those benefits, it said. “Many preventive care and support services are available at no or low cost to beneficiaries, including check-ups, vaccinations, tobacco cessation treatment, mental health assessment and referral and comprehensive support for nursing mothers,” it said.