Developing a healthy diet, lifestyle and sports programme for his colleagues at Indian company Subros Limited led to Pawan Kumar Yadav being crowned the Health and Safety Champion in the 2018 International Safety Awards.
Undergoing a general health check from the doctor often prompts people to vow to adopt healthier habits, but for Pawan Kumar Yadav, a deputy manager (production) at Indian manufacturing company Subros, it also sowed the seeds of an idea for a programme that would dramatically improve the health of his colleagues.
Pawan is part of a team of production managers responsible for ensuring the safe and smooth operation of the manufacturing operations at Subros Limited, a leading manufacturer of air conditioning components for India’s automotive industry.
The company operates six manufacturing plants, a research and development facility and a tool engineering centre at various locations in India. Its customers include Maruti Suzuki India Limited, part of the Suzuki Motor Corporation, the Japanese car and motorcycle manufacturing giant.
Pawan is based at the manufacturing plant in Manesar, Gurgaon, which employs around 2,000 people. However, he also visits other Subros manufacturing plants to help oversee and improve the efficiency of production operations.
Subros provides regular medical checks for its employees, which assess issues such as body weight, cholesterol levels and blood pressure. After undergoing a personal health check soon after turning 40, Pawan vowed to reconsider his diet, lifestyle and fitness and developed a personal health and fitness programme that would eventually form the basis of a workplace wellbeing programme designed specifically for his colleagues.
“During my medical check-up, I discovered that I was not at a healthy weight and my blood pressure was not at the right level,” he says. “It made me think that once we pass 40, we really need to take care of our health, otherwise we are putting ourselves at risk of developing serious health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.
“Several years ago, I developed cancer and thankfully it was successfully treated. But when I attended the hospital it seemed that others undergoing treatment were only taking regular exercise or adopting healthy lifestyle habits after they had become ill.
“It seemed that many people who develop cancer or become seriously ill only start to follow a healthy lifestyle after they are diagnosed with a disease or illness, when they could do much more to prevent themselves becoming seriously ill.”
Researching healthy lifestyles
Pawan says that “instead of losing hope” following his health check, he began to research healthy diet, lifestyle and exercise choices, gathering information from the internet and getting advice from dieticians. He started learning and practising yoga and meditation, and began carrying out light exercises, including during his rest breaks at work.
He adopted a healthier diet, cutting out fried food, eating lighter, healthier meals, increasing his intake of green salads and vegetables and cutting out alcohol. A follow-up medical check soon afterwards revealed his health was rapidly improving, which inspired him to try to educate others about the importance and benefits of adopting a healthy lifestyle.
After consulting managers and the in-house medical team at the Subros Manesar plant, he reviewed the health check records of employees aged over 40 at the site, as he felt people of this age could be at greater risk of becoming unwell due to an unhealthy lifestyle.
He and the company discovered that only 28 per cent of employees in the 40-plus age range had good or satisfactory health parameters, while 72 per cent were in either the unhealthy red or yellow zone, due to problems such as high cholesterol and excessive body weight for their height.
With the permission of management, Pawan launched a voluntary healthy diet and lifestyle programme aimed generally at employees aged over 40, known as Happy Subros.
The programme involved organising end-of shift meetings where workers could learn and practise yoga and meditation, and Pawan also began encouraging those attending to adopt healthier diets and lifestyles, highlighting the food choices that had improved his own health. Those attending the sessions were also encouraged to take up exercise, such as jogging, to give up smoking and to eliminate or cut down on alcohol consumption.
Pawan says: “The whole idea behind the Happy Subros programme is to ensure workers are happy when they come to work and when they go home. We’re saying to employees that you can become a very good doctor of your own health.”
He says that employees taking part in the programme quickly began to report improvements to their health, such as losing weight and feeling more energetic, and the news soon spread to their colleagues. “Initially, some employees were reluctant to take part in the programme, but after staff began to talk about the positive health results they were experiencing, other workers became motivated to take part and began participating in greater and greater numbers.”
Yoga and exercise sessions
Following the success and popularity of the voluntary health, fitness and diet meetings, Pawan suggested a number of additional ideas for improving employee health and fitness, which the company agreed to and began to roll out at the Manesar plant.
These included after-hours yoga sessions on alternate days and pre-shift 10-minute-long exercise sessions focused on stretching and warming up the body’s muscles. The canteen food was placed into three categories based on its health benefits, to encourage healthy eating, and compulsory holiday planning was introduced to ensure all employees took adequate leave and rest.
Pawan also began organising regular sports activities outside work that all staff can take part in. These generally take place on a Sunday, which is a leave day for most workers. He also organised a five-kilometre marathon for staff, which takes place quarterly, and encouraged workers to take part in other sports events organised at a local or state level, such as the Manesar half-marathon.
One of the potential health risks to employees working in a factory is fatigue or muscle injuries, caused by adopting poor postures while operating machinery or from awkward bending while lifting and carrying items. Pawan says: “Employees found that the voluntary 10-minute pre-shift exercise sessions were very useful for helping to prevent problems like cramp, so the company decided to make the sessions mandatory for workers at the Manesar plant.”
A year after the introduction of the various health and lifestyle measures under Happy Subros, the company reviewed the health parameters of all employees taking part in the programme and found a huge improvement. The number of staff in the ‘good’ and ‘okay’ category had increased from 28 per cent to 96 per cent and the number of workers in the much less healthy red or yellow category had fallen from 72 per cent to four per cent.
The success of the Happy Subros programme prompted Pawan’s manager at the Manesar plant, Chander Shekhar Tiwari, to nominate him for the British Safety Council’s Health and Safety Champion of the Year Award for 2018.
The award is part of the annual International Safety Awards and recognises the exceptional contribution of individuals aged 25 and over, who are not health and safety professionals, but have played a significant role in keeping their work colleagues safe and healthy.
All organisations can nominate employees for the Health and Safety Champion of the Year – and the Young Health and Safety Champion of the Year for 16 to 24-year-olds – whether they apply for an International Safety Award or not.
Following his nomination, Pawan made the shortlist of six people being considered for Health and Safety Champion of the Year Award by the panel of adjudicators. He was announced as the Health and Safety Champion of the Year for 2018 at the International Safety Awards Gala Dinner in London in April 2018.
Subros Limited’s Manesar site also won a Distinction in the International Safety Awards for 2018 in recognition of its commitment to high standards of occupational health and safety and the site was shortlisted for a Sector Award in the manufacturing category.
Chander Shekhar Tiwari said: “The results of Pawan’s initiatives were remarkable. The average amount of weight lost by those with an unhealthy weight was 12 kilograms and the greatest weight loss was by one individual who lost 18 kilograms.
“Around 15 employees had a very big waistline and high blood pressure, but with the help of the health and wellness programme, 12 to 13 of these employees were able to reduce their waist size and achieve an absolutely normal blood pressure.”
Chander added: “Some of the ideas from the Happy Subros programme have already been implemented at Subros’s other plants and employees working in factories run by other companies in the Manesar area have also become involved by taking part in our sports activities. So the message about the importance of good health and wellbeing is spreading beyond Subros Limited to others.
“By winning the Health and Safety Champion award, Pawan has proved that you don’t need to belong to a particular sector to bring about change – having a vision is the most important thing.”
Spreading the message
Pawan’s programme has been well received by the participating employees. Jagbir Singh, a 31-year-old junior manager at the Manesar plant, lost 10 kilograms after adopting the advice on healthy eating and taking part in activities such as yoga and sports. He says: “In a short time I learned about the importance of good health and diet control. My stress level has reduced drastically, I can cope better with challenges at work and I am now encouraging my relatives to follow my example and lead a healthier lifestyle.”
Pawan says he hopes the programme can be adopted across all of Subros Limited’s sites and he hopes the message that healthy eating and regular exercise can improve people’s general health and wellbeing will spread much further.
“Our staff are already spreading the message about good diet and fitness to their families and others in their local communities,” he says. “So Happy Subros is also helping to improve the health and wellbeing of our society.”
Apply for the International Safety Awards for 2019 at: britsafe.org/ISA
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