FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 5, 2013) - National Safety Month is an excellent opportunity for leaders and supervisors to place special emphasis on preserving the health and wellness of their Department of the Army Civilian workforce.

The National Safety Council, sponsor of National Safety Month, has outlined four key areas of injury prevention - preventing slips, trips and falls; ergonomics; employee wellness; and emergency preparedness - that leaders in both the public and private sectors can address as part of their safety efforts.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, falls are a leading cause of unintentional injury and result in approximately 8.9 million visits to emergency rooms annually. Three simple measures can help prevent falls in the workplace: Plan ahead for how the job will be done and what safety equipment is required; provide the right equipment, including fall protection, ladders and scaffolds; and train everyone to use the equipment safely.

The goal of ergonomics is to reduce physical stress and eliminate injuries and disorders associated with bad posture, overuse of muscles and repetitive tasks. This is accomplished by fitting individual workspaces to the physical capabilities and limitations of employees. In addition, many products are available to help prevent injury, including ergonomic chairs, gel wrist rests for keyboards, adjustable monitor stands and hand trucks. Simple stretching, however, is extremely effective at reducing ergonomic injuries, plus it's free and takes very little time. The Mayo Clinic offers a slide show at that demonstrates some simple office stretches. (Employees who have recently had surgery or any muscle or joint problems should consult their physician before starting a stretching program.)

There are many other things leaders can do to encourage employee wellness. Exercising, healthy eating, reducing stress and quitting tobacco are all excellent places to start. For every wellness dollar spent, medical costs and absenteeism fall, while productivity increases. Army programs that support civilian wellness are outlined in Army Regulation 600-53, Army Health Promotion.

Being prepared for an emergency is vitally important, whether on or off the job. Prior planning and training are essential to effectively responding should a real-world emergency occur. Fire drills during the workday, weather warning siren tests, home preparation checklists and bomb drills are all good preparation measures.

A safe and healthy civilian workforce is critical to the Army's success.