EHS Management, Injuries and Illness

Early Intervention Key to Better Worker Safety

I don’t have to tell you that worker safety is a big deal—like a $161.5 billion big deal (the total cost of worker injuries, according to recent available data). Or, another way to look at it is $1,100 per worker or $39,000 per medically consulted injury. As I said, I don’t have to tell you worker safety is a big, big deal in 2020.

Safety supervisor, leader

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As a result, many companies are seeking creative solutions—and not just solutions that help workers AFTER an injury occurs but solutions that help employees BEFORE they experience a workplace injury, thus working to PREVENT an injury before it occurs.

It might seem like a novel concept, but it is certainly obtainable. In fact, a number of companies are already going down this road of early intervention, working to prevent injuries before they occur.

Manufacturing Firm Employs ‘POET’

Employees at one appliance manufacturing firm were experiencing significant stress from long periods of standing, strain from heavy lifting, and repetitive motion injuries. Not surprisingly, the company was seeing a disturbing trend—an increasing number of injuries among employees in their first year with the organization.

These newly hired employees were being placed in tasks on the manufacturing line with little to no time to learn the work techniques necessary to complete their jobs. And, many new hires were “deconditioned” and using less-than-optimal work techniques.

So, the company tried a new approach: post-offer employment testing (POET). Essentially, this strategy matches a new hire’s abilities to the essential physical demands of the job. Sounds simple, but the ability to minimize the risk of injury and maximize employee success is profound.

By employing POET, and a series of other early intervention strategies like work conditioning and line-side coaching, the company has already seen $2,299,000 in cost avoidance, a decrease in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordables by more than 50% in the first year, and a decreased need for continued care and associated costs.

Ergonomic Interventions Help Energy Company with RSIs

Preventing repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) is a key goal of many employers—and for good reason. Musculoskeletal disorders make up roughly 30% of all workplace injuries that result in lost workdays. In fact, according to OSHA, RSIs affect 1.8 million workers each year, with a cost between $17 billion and $20 billion per year.

So, it’s no wonder this energy company was so keen on addressing RSIs in its workplace. Its solution: to use a combination of on-site and virtual ergonomic assessments that focus on education and prevention.

By working with employees on correct body posture, biomechanics, self-management techniques, and stretching and exercise routines, the company helped better educate its workforce on how to more effectively do their jobs.

The result of the ergonomic interventions: resolution of 90% of cases!

Auto Manufacturer Implements More Proactive Approach

One automotive manufacturer was seeing an alarming increase in the number of musculoskeletal injuries, resulting in increased OSHA recordable incidence rates, absenteeism, and short- and long-term disability. So, the company sought to be more proactive and implement an early detection and injury prevention program comprising support, education, and training.

Its solution involved incorporating an early intervention program that focused on safe work techniques, new hire follow-ups, area-specific stretches, and warmups.

So far so good.

Ninety-seven percent of new hires have not reported a musculoskeletal disorder incident within the first 90 days of employment. And, line-side coaching saved the company 1,325 work hours and an estimated $30,605 by keeping employees on the job (vs. employees taking time during the workday to go to the on-site medical clinic).

Proactively taking care of your employees is good business. These early intervention cases demonstrate exactly that. In addition to the benefits to your bottom line, these approaches can help build employee loyalty, too, which is important as the battle for top talent continues. Early intervention programs that address injury prevention from day 1 are key to creating habits that are both safe and worth repeating, as we all know that employees who feel supported and taken care of contribute to the well-being of the business and, in turn, the bottom line.

Rebecca Lee Rebecca Lee is the Director of Injury Prevention and Treatment at HealthFitness, where she serves as a clinical subject matter expert to Business Development and Client Strategy and Engagement teams and a resource for on-site Injury Prevention and Treatment teams.