The implementation of a well-designed injury prevention and ergonomics program can be a big contributor to keeping employees healthy and productive. Physical therapists are healthcare professionals with the educational background and skillset to effectively design these types of programs.
Designing a prevention and ergonomics program needs to consider many independent variables such as work demands, worker capacity, worker behaviors, and administrative controls. All these variables can change over the course of time in any work environment. For example, worker capacity can change based on the age of the workforce, their overall health, and employee turnover. The physical therapist designing a program should consider all of these variables, as any change to one of these elements can offset the entire balance, and therefore limit success. A proper program should consider feedback on these items from all stakeholders including human resources, management, and employees.
It is important that any intervention applied meets both the need of the employer and the employee, otherwise, it will be counterproductive. Physical therapists can take the lead in an intervention or participate as a part of a multi-disciplinary team. They can provide monitoring of at-risk workers, educational programs, training, general health promotion activities, and return-to-work case management assistance. Physical therapists can also sit on committees at employers that address various issues such as work assignments, human resources, and design and production standards.
Ergonomics in particular is a popular intervention used by employers to assist in decreasing cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs), which are very prevalent in hospitality and manufacturing settings among others.
With more and more people working from home, there also continues to be a rise in CTDs caused by poor mechanics at our in-home workstations. Preventing these types of injuries can provide substantial savings as the average CTD costs employers $31,309 in medical and indemnity costs, according to OSHA.
Jobs with high numbers of claims or recordable injuries should consider an ergonomic evaluation. These can also be helpful if there is an injured worker that is attempting to return to work and is having difficulty. The goal of the ergonomic intervention should be identifying the involved risks, providing recommendations for modifications to better fit the worker, and recognizing any other control measures to help mitigate the risk of injury.
Physical therapists are healthcare professionals that are experts in the movement of the body along with identifying and addressing dysfunctions in these movements. Because of this, they are well-equipped to provide workplace prevention and ergonomics programs.
Another intervention can be the implementation of pre-shift exercises or a stretch and flex program. We all know the importance of getting the appropriate amount of exercise to maintain our health. The American Heart Association recommends obtaining at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (or some combination of both) per week to maintain a healthy heart. Meeting this objective will also help individuals stay strong, maintain a healthy weight, improve immune systems, and fight off numerous other medical conditions.
The cost of doing business continues to rise. One factor driving this increase is injury-related expenses. When companies effectively manage this component taking a proactive approach, the result is improved employee morale and satisfaction, decreased cost, and an improved bottom line. Many therapy companies provide good treatment of the injured worker. But, what if there was a way to reduce the number of work-related injuries and improve the quality of life for your employees, your co-workers, your friends?
The term “Industrial Athlete” refers to anyone who makes a living using mental and physical talents to perform jobs that require skill, strength, flexibility, coordination, and endurance. The ability of this individual to perform physically has a direct bearing on the productivity and competitiveness of a company, much like the success of an athlete’s team.
Pre-game warm-ups have been proven to reduce injuries on the field and the same can be done with employees. But, how do we warm up the team without sacrificing productivity? A customized Stretch & Flex Program does just that.
Employers have taken notice and many have created opportunities for employees to be rewarded for their healthy activities through incentive programs and discounts on health care premiums. In addition to the overall health benefits, exercise has demonstrated the ability to improve an employee’s focus and cognitive abilities, productivity, energy and reduce stress levels while at work. Exercise has also demonstrated the ability to help prevent injuries including Workers’ Compensation claims. All of these benefits are great for the employee’s health along with the employer’s bottom line.
While some employers have invested heavily in on-site fitness facilities, digital wellness platforms, or health coaches, even employers with smaller budgets can benefit from encouraging healthy habits and allowing time for their employees to remain active throughout the day. Encouraging employees to perform some simple exercises before, during, and after the workday can go a long way.
Employees that sit at desks or have more sedentary jobs should be encouraged to get up frequently, walk around, and perform some simple exercises to improve their strength and mobility along with decrease joint stiffness and musculoskeletal pain. Taking a walk during break periods is also a great way to remain active and enjoy the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.
If you are an employer that would like a consultation on how you can save money creating a healthier work environment for your employees, visit Upstream Rehabilitation and request additional information.