We all know with pensions becoming a thing of the past, healthcare costs increasing, Social Security in crisis, and life expectancies expanding, most of us are going to have to work later into our lives in order to make ends meet. As stakeholders in the Workers’ Compensation industry, this leads us to question if we will see costs related to Occupational Injuries increase exponentially as well.
A 2019 study from the American Journal of Industrial Medicine looked at work-related psychosocial factors and the influence on injuries. The authors found for both males and females, perception of high work demand or efforts involved, low support at work, low rewards, and a high effort-reward imbalance were all associated with risk twice as high for injuries. Addressing these psychosocial factors will take collaboration at the federal level, employer level, task level and individual level.
Furthermore, a 2020 study, Aging at Work: A Review of Recent Trends and Future Directions: analyzes motivations and solutions to aging at work with possible policy implications split into 5 parts: extend the length of work ability, avoid age-based discrimination, improve the well-being of older workers, promote life long learning and encourage late retirement.
While these findings should not be surprising and likely similar to what would be found in a younger population, the studies further emphasize the need for wellness and safety programs in the workplace. This will particularly become more imperative as the workforce ages. Some examples of wellness and safety programs that employers can implement include a risk analysis, ergonomic assessment, stretch and flex program, or onsite physical therapy.
A risk analysis is performed based on objective data collection using various established evidence-based tools. This can assist in establishing safe productivity standards and minimizing risk across a work population through administrative and engineering controls.
An ergonomic assessment is objective data collection to determine if the essential functions of a job expose the employee to an increased potential for injury and provide recommendations to mitigate risk.
This includes an analysis of: Work Postures, Forceful Exertions, Repetition, Vibration Exposure, and Contact Stress. An ergonomic assessment can benefit workplaces through risk factor identification, root cause analysis, injury investigation, and solutions to mediate risk factors. By changing positions and processes to be more ergonomic, the employee can be set up for success.
We all tend to get stiffer and less flexible as we get older. A stretch and flex program in the workplace can help with that gradual decline of range of motion. A beneficial customized stretch program consists of both dynamic warm-up type movements and static holding stretches to maintain or improve motion.
When done consistently, a stretch program can lead to improved mobility and help with decreasing injuries. Just like an Olympic athlete would not go out and compete without warming up first, the industrial athlete should warm up before starting his/her work sport.
Convenience is key. The more convenient and easy access one has to a service, the more likely they will be to use it. That is where onsite physical therapy can be very beneficial. Having a physical therapist at the place of work eliminates the need to commute and decreases the time away from work. There are numerous studies that prove the benefits of early access to physical therapy. Early access leads to faster recovery and quicker return to work.
In addition, employers will need to stress having detailed job descriptions with accurate physical demands or essential job functions to ensure potential employees are being matched to jobs in which they are qualified. This may include instituting Post Offer Employment Tests (POETs) as part of the pre-hire process. A POET is a physical demand test for prospective employees to ensure they can perform the material handling aspects of the job like lifting, pushing, pulling as well as the static and dynamic activities like standing, walking, bending, reaching, and so on.
If you are an employer that is looking to decrease your injury rates and increase the overall safety and wellness of your workforce, contact Upstream Rehabilitation at IndustrialServices@bmrp.com to discuss potential options that would best suit your needs.