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Škoda Focuses on Health and Prevention

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MLADÁ BOLESLAV, CZECH REPUBLIC – June 12, 2013: Škoda is a pioneer in workplace ergonomics. The Czech car manufacturer is to present the focus of their comprehensive prevention program at the ‘Ergonomics Day’ on 10th June, 2013. The aim of these measures is to permanently optimize all working conditions and processes for the employees in production and administration. These commitments are part of the company’s comprehensive social benefits.

An important principle for all matters relating to workplace ergonomics is that prevention is better than a cure. That is why preventive measures are the cornerstone of ergonomic policy at Škoda Auto. One particular focus of improving ergonomics is in vehicle production. This is all about achieving the most optimal, health conscious design of the entire logistics and manufacturing processes. Examples include positioning the hand correctly when using bolting tools as well as reducing the burden on the back through correct body posture, how to work with overhead items and using the appropriate technical aids when lifting heavy loads. So, mounting tools for fastening the car wheels or doors are used as well as ergonomic seats for employees who swivel from vehicle to vehicle, enabling such work to be carried out seated. But the topic is obviously also concerned with simpler things such as the positioning of computer monitors and the optimal height of seats and tables in office workstations.

“Our employees’ health and safety in the workplace has the highest priority at Škoda”, explains Škoda Board member for HR, Bohdan Wojnar. He adds, “Our commitment to the design of ergonomic and healthy workplaces goes far beyond that of the legal requirements and is part of our overall social policy. We focus on preventive measures as well as on targeted improvements in our team’s everyday working environment. This entire project is undertaken in close partnership with trade unions.”

To improve the working environment specifically, three years ago Škoda merged all the measures that had already been carried out in various departments into one central ergonomics project. “We joined forces to be able to purposefully and continually optimize the working environment”, says Wojnar.

In evaluating ergonomics, Škoda also relies on the latest scientific findings. Since mid-2012 there has been a company-owned, authorized laboratory for ergonomics and work physiology. The laboratory’s primary task is to assess the working environment in terms of both physical stress and specific work positions. For this purpose, the total workload is measured throughout the working period just as the load on certain areas of the body and muscle groups. Based on the data collected, measures to improve working conditions are developed and implemented. Specially trained experts evaluate new technologies with regard to the burden on the employee. They optimize workstations and working methods to avoid or reduce strain. Our ultimate goal is to create conditions where health issues do not arise at all.

Preventative health measures play an extremely important role. That is why the ergonomic and work physiology specialists at Škoda, for example, train employees in correct body postures, such as when lifting and in movements required at their workstations. In the practical part of their training, employees, along with occupational therapists, practice correct movements, learn how to use various tools correctly and incorporate stretching exercises. This can help employees both at work and in their everyday lives.

Škoda Auto has also introduced voluntary preventive programs that have been included in the ‘Škoda Check-up’ since 2008. These support the employees in terms of healthy eating, weight loss, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as maintaining an altogether healthier lifestyle. An average of 13,000 employees go for a Škoda Check-up every year and, based on their results, receive advice or undergo rehabilitation wherever necessary. Outpatient rehabilitation clinics are available to all employees at each of the Škoda Auto plants.

Škoda is particularly dedicated to older employees. “Older colleagues often have specific requirements with regard to their workstations and in terms of health”, says Wojnar, Škoda Board member for HR. That is why Škoda has dedicated a special ‘Seniority Program’ for these valued employees to promote good health. The program was developed working closely with the trade union KOVO. For this reason, Škoda was awarded ‘Most Senior-Friendly Company’ in the contest ‘The Most Responsible Company in the Czech Republic’ last year. Furthermore, the European Commission awarded the manufacturer second prize in the category ‘Employment for People of All Ages’. The award was presented by the EU Project ‘2012 - European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations'.