The Bottom Line Return on Prevention

Matt Longman

Benjamin Franklin once famously stated that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It’s a nice saying, but does it ring true when it comes to employee health? What’s the real ROI on prevention, and what can employers truly expect when implementing a health program?

Below are some facts and figures about the hard costs on prevention, and the areas these types of programs can impact.


Workplace preventive health initiatives are growing in popularity around the world, as employers connect the link between employee health and company's performance. They’ve found that an investment in health can save a company more than it spends to manage it, when adding in reduced productivity losses due to lower absenteeism, and lower health care spending overall.

A study by GlaxoSmithKline found that a workplace health program is capable of a return on investment between $0.26 and $2.12. This clearly demonstrates the potential business case for companies to invest in the health of its workforce.


It can be hard to calculate the exact cost savings on safety measures, as they can vary by company and industry. Safety and Health Magazine calculated that the total cost of occupational injuries and death adds to $198 billion each year. This breaks down to a bill of $1400 for every working American. And the average cost of a workplace injury, including employer costs and lost productivity, is an estimated $39K.

Various studies have found that every $1 invested in a safety program saves employers upwards of $6. When considering the impact to an employer’s business should injuries--or even death--occur, the facts show that investing in safety is worth the spend.


Wellness programs have often been viewed as a nice extra, not a strategic imperative. Newer evidence tells a different story. With tax incentives and grants available under recent federal health care legislation, U.S. companies can use wellness programs to chip away at their enormous health care costs, which are only rising with an aging workforce.

While many factors help drive utilization (a key component to any prevention plan), if all aspects are implemented and maintained, employers can expect to see a return of more than $2 for every $1 invested. While this number may seem low to some, it can mean a tremendous cost savings if it means the prevention of catastrophic health issues that impact an employer’s direct costs and productivity.

Soft Costs

While there are the direct and indirect costs tallied up to determine an employer’s ROI for prevention, there are additional factors that employers can gain from investing in prevention for their employees. Many of these are considered ‘soft costs’ or factors that are hard to quantify, but they can still benefit an employer.

A study by Towers Watson shows that organizations with highly effective prevention programs report significantly lower attrition. At software firm SAS Institute, turnover is just 4%, thanks in part to such a program; at the Biltmore tourism enterprise, the rate is 9%. Employee morale and commitment to the organization’s goals are two more popular benefits of healthy employees. These perks also help to create a destination for employees when considering employment. A SHRM survey found that 14% of employees selected their employer due to their health and prevention programs.

It’s clear that prevention is worth something, whether it be a pound or a handful of Benjamins. But employers need to have a clear path on their goals before implementing a program to ensure proper use by employees, and to yield the greatest return. For more information about creating a prevention program for your workforce, make an appointment with a Concentra program expert and find out how much you can save.