Wednesday, November 25

Health: Definition and Importance of Health


Health: Definition and Importance of Health!


The term ‘health’ is a positive and dynamic concept. In common parlance, health implies absence of disease. However, that industrial health implies much more than mere absence of disease is clear from the following definitions of health:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has defined health as: “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or illness or infirmity”. As regards the industrial health, it refers to a system of public health and preventive medi­cine which is applicable to industrial concerns.


Here, the definition of health given by the joint I.L.O/W.H O. Committee on Organisational Health is worth quoting:

(i) The prevention and maintenance of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all organisations;

(ii) Pre­vention among workers of ill-health caused by the working conditions;

(iii) Protection of work­ers in their employment from risk resulting from factors adverse to health; and


(iv) Placing and maintenance of the worker in an occupational environment adapted to his physical and psycho­logical equipment.

Thus the modem concept of health emphasises on the “whole man concept.” In other words, health refers to the outcome of the interaction between the individual and his environment. So to say, he/she is healthy who is well adjusted with environment.

The modem concept of health thus, antici­pates and recognizes potentially harmful situations and applies engineering control measures to prevent disease or illness or infirmity. In this way, industrial health depends not only on the individual worker but also on the environment in which he/she lives and works.

There are two types of employee health:


Physical health and mental health

A brief mention of these follows:

Physical Health:

The physical health refers to infirmity in the employee’s health. Employee’s physical health and his work are intimately related. While an unhealthy employee works less both quantitatively and qualitatively, commits accidents, and remains absent from work, a healthy em­ployee produces results opposite to these. The same underlines the need for and importance of healthy employees in an organisation.


Mental Health:

This refers to the mental soundness of the employees. As is physical health important for good performance, so is mental health also. Experience suggests that three factors, namely, mental breakdowns, mental disturbances, and mental illness impair the mental health of em­ployees.

Importance of health:

The trite saying ‘Health is Wealth’ explains the importance of health. Ill health results in high rate of absenteeism and turnover, industrial discontent and indiscipline, poor performance, low pro­ductivity and more accidents. On the contrary, the natural consequences of good health are reduction in the rate of absenteeism and turnover, accidents and occupational diseases.

Besides, employee health also provides other benefits such as reduced spoilage, improved morale of employee, in­creased productivity of employee and also longer working period of an employee which, of course, cannot be easily measured.


In long and short, employee health is important because it helps:

1. Maintain and improve the employee performance both quantitatively and qualitatively.

2. Reduce employee absenteeism and turnover.

3. Minimize industrial unrest and indiscipline.

4. Improve employee morale and motivation.

It is this importance of health, increasing emphasis is given to the employee health through various laws and provisions in this regard. For example, in India, the Royal Commission on Labour (1931), die Labour Investigation Committee (1946), the Health Safety and Development Committee (1943), the Labour Welfare Committee (1969) and the National Commission on Labour (1969), all have expressed concern for employee health.

These emphasised upon the creation and maintenance of as healthy an environment as possible, in the homes of the employees as well as in all places where they congregate for work, amusement or recreation,

The I.L.O. in its Recommendation No. 112 envisaged the importance of employee health in these words:

Occupational health services should be established in or near a place of employment for the purpose of:

(i) Protecting the workers against any health hazard arising out of work or conditions in which it is carried on;

(ii) Contributing towards worker’s physical and mental adjustment; and

(iii) Contributing to establishment and maintenance of the highest possible degree of physical and mental well-being of the workers.


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