Wellness Program for High Risk Jobs

September 2016

Wellness Program for High Injury Job Classifications:
Be Smart About Safety Initiative


Be Well at Work – Wellness Program (formerly known as Health*Matters Wellness Program) began delivering a customized, onsite wellness program for the RSSP Housing & Dining employees in high risk job classifications in 2007. The goals of the program have remained consistent:

  • Supporting employees to improve their health by providing tools and resources.
  • Creating a healthy workplace culture.
Two Office of Laboratory Animal Care employees flexing after they complete the Stretch and Flex program.
OLAC employees showing their strength after completing the Stretch and Flex program.

Over the last 9 years, the program has expanded to other units within Residential Student Services Program (RSSP), as well as to other departments with service workers in high risk job classifications (defined by days lost and workers’ compensation claims), including Facilities Services and Office of Laboratory Animal Care (OLAC).

With the support of Be Smart About Safety (BSAS) funding for a dedicated health educator and program costs, the wellness program has been successful in creating a safe, confidential, and supportive culture, and in delivering positive outcomes at both the individual and institutional level.

In accordance with the mission of this program to create and support a worksite wellness program for the high risk employees at UC Berkeley, the 2015 program continued to positively impact these groups.

“The stretching program and computer learning are both excellent. Good combination for a program.”

– Senior Custodian Housing

Sharing Successes

Teresa Espinosa

Custodian, Unit 2
Portrait of Theresa Espinosa
“Now, I’m not able to drink any soda, because the flavor, I can’t. Nothing…One time I tried it here, and I spat it out. I didn’t like the flavor. Like molasses…
I have more energy throughout the day.
Before, I was very sleepy, and I felt very tired, and my back hurt more. I have changed my weight. Before I weighed 155 lbs, now my weight is about
135-138 lbs.”

Back in 2014, the Know Your Numbers Health Screening showed that you had several health risks with numbers out of normal range. And then in 2015, those numbers improved.  What made you decide to change some of your habits?

“With the Wellness Program, I became aware of the all the sugar that was in the food that I was eating, and with your recommendations, I started to think about what I was doing wrong. And also, my Mom has diabetes, I don’t want to have diabetes.

So now I don’t drink soda. No sugar. None. (Maybe, I use brown sugar, but very little.) I eat a lot of salads. Green salads, just a little dressing. And I eat only a few tortillas — two.  Before, I ate maybe 8 – 10 tortillas each day. I eat whole wheat bread now, maybe two slices each day, with a little peanut butter. It fills me up for breakfast. Before, I ate the sweet breads. Now, no bread, because Mexican people, we eat a lot of bread. A lot of bread, and this does not work well for us.”

What was the hardest thing to change and do you feel differently?

“I think the hardest thing was sweets (desserts) and soda. But now, I’m not able to drink any soda, because the flavor, I can’t. Nothing. One time I tried it here, and I spat it out. I didn’t like the flavor. Like molasses. On the weekends  I drink water and sometimes I drink watermelon or…aqua fresca. Maybe one day a week. I have more energy throughout the day. Before, I was very sleepy, and I felt very tired, and my back hurt more. I have changed my weight. Before I weighed 155 lbs, now my weight is about 135-138 lbs.”

I know you are a custodian so you move around all day long. Are you doing any other exercise?

“I walk for exercise, without stopping. Before, it was slower and now I walk faster and faster and faster. I am more conditioned. I don’t feel tired like in the beginning. But there’s something that I don’t like. I look really skinny and people criticize me. Yeah, I asked my doctor if I am too thin. He told me I’m healthy.”

Do you have any recommendations for other employees?

“I did many of the behavior change programs offered through the Wellness Program.  The sugar one, blood pressure one, and the stretching one and lots of people ask me questions. They ask me, what did you do to lose weight. I don’t eat white flour and less number of  tortillas. I don’t drink soda. I exercise by walking, walking, walking, walking. Because one lady said, I have too much stomach and I said, “Walk, walk, walk, walk…”

2015 Accomplishments*

(*most recently available data)

Reduced health risks in employees with high risk job classifications

  • The number of RSSP employees at risk for   and Diabetes decreased between 2015 and 2016 by 32%, measured by participation in the annual health screening. This improvement may be attributed to participation in the programs and services that addressed reducing sugar in food and beverages.
Supervisor in Cal Dining leading a pre-shift Stretch and Flex.

Expanded services to additional departments in response to the needs of employees in high risk  job classifications

  • In collaboration with RSSP management and the Wellness Leaders, implemented a pre-shift stretching program, which included transitioning coordination of the program to the department.
  • Continued serving late night Cal DIning employees with both Know Your Numbers screening and monthly Dietitian services, resulting in an increased number of participants in the health screening from this work shift.
  • Worked with Facilities Services 24-Hour Body Subcommittee of the Executive Safety Committee to prioritize services including nutrition education with the Registered Dietitians, UC Walks, and a needs assessment on Diabetes.
  • Provided the employees in the Office of Laboratory Animal Care (OLAC) with the Stretch & Flex Train-the-Trainer program, in coordination with Be Well at Work — Ergonomics.
Wellness leader Ramelda James holds up a plate to explain portion recommendations.
Ramelda James, wellness leader at RSSP Housing, explains the portion plate recommendation which consists of 1/2 vegetables/fruits, 1/4 lean protein, and 1/4 whole carbs.

Expanded the culture of wellness

  • In collaboration with RSSP IT staff, incorporated health education into the department’s  computer training classes improving employees skills at accessing their health insurance plans, making online appointments with their provider, and finding quality health education websites in their native languages.
  • An activity-based Wellness Break has become a regular agenda item at RSSP employee and management group trainings.
  • The Wellness Leaders in Cal Dining are sharing A Minute for Your Health at pre-shift meetings.
  • In Facility Services, management supported approximately 125 employees to extend their lunch break by participating in UC Walks: Cal Walks at Work Day.

2016 Goals

Improve and build on the culture of wellness

  • Work with the RSSP trainers to integrate the Nutrition on the Job video and wellness education into their New Employee Orientation (NEO) training.
  • Collaborate with the Dulce student organization, dedicated to providing diabetes education to the Latino community, to pilot Prediabetes and Diabetes education for the employees in high risk job classifications.

Begin a three-year strategic planning process

  • Develop a 3-year strategic plan beginning with conversations and informal focus groups to contribute to a needs assessment. Explore the most effective methods of creating a sustainable wellness program and practices for RSSP and Facility Services.

Engage employees and expand wellness services in Facilities Services

  • Provide leadership to the Facility Services Executive Safety Committee to facilitate employee ownership for wellness planning.
  • Increase participation of employees in the trades units by offering behavior change programs and monthly dietitian workshops.
Facility Services' Custodians stretch on campus.
Facility Services’ Custodians stretching as part of the UC Walks event.

“This computer teaching helps me know more about the computer and makes my mind work better. It teaches me to search for pages on my health.”

–Housing Custodian

“Thank you for teaching me how to warm up before I work so it can help me not get hurt.  We start the shift smiling and laughing.”

–Cal Dining Custodian

“Teaching the custodians and food service workers how to use the computer and learning more about their work and their lives, helps me look at all the things in my life that I take for granted.”  

–UCB student employee with RSSP IT

Wellness Program Participation

List outlining the number of staff participants of 2015 and 2016 wellness programs

Outcomes and Engagement

212 participants in the Behavior Change Programs in 2015

Statistics show the effectiveness of Behavior Change Programs in 2015

Demonstrating Change in Health Risks

CalDining workers stretch before a shift at Cafe 3.

The annual data analysis represents findings of the health screenings for RSSP service employees only.  The data is used to drive program interventions, evaluate effectiveness of services, and to motivate employees in learning about their ability for changing and improving their health.

Potential explanation for change in employee risks (Jan 2015–Jan 2016)

  • Decrease in high risk: reduction in total number of health risks such as blood sugar
  • Increase in medium risk: a large percentage of first time participants are in the medium risk category
  • Decrease in low risk: more employees in low risk category are now working with their doctor and not participating in Know Your Numbers at work

Know Your Numbers Health Screening aggregate risk data (Jan 2015–Jan 2016)

A Chart representing the shift in percentage of low, medium, and high risk workers between 2015 and 2016.

* HERO study published November 2012:

Ten Modifiable Health Risk Factors Are Linked To More Than One-Fifth Of Employer-Employee Health Care Spending.

Twelve identified health risks, representing substantial avoidable health care costs, are included in the Know Your Numbers fasting health screening. These risks include total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, TG, blood sugar, blood pressure, weight, BMI, waist circumference, and self-reported habits on tobacco use, physical activity and diet. An estimated 60–70% of the same employees repeat the screening annually.

Defeat the Sweets Behavior Change Program 2015

The number of employees at risk for Pre-diabetes and Diabetes decreased in 2016 by 32%. This improvement may be attributed to participation in the programs offered, including Defeat the Sweets behavior change program, and nutrition education workshops offered by the Registered Dietitians.

Risk for Pre-diabetes and Diabetes

Chart showing a 7% decrease in risk for pre-diabetes and diabetes from 2015 to 2016

Nutrition on the Job: Healthy Eating at Cal Dining

The following video by Cal Dining and Health*Matters goes over the elements of a healthy and nutritionally balanced diet in relation to the food served at Cal Dining:

Download the PDF of the Wellness Program for High Injury Job Classifications Executive Summary here.