Source: Brian Boyle, PT, DPT
Did you know that in 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported musculoskeletal disorders were the most frequent causes of physical disability? Fast forward to today and musculoskeletal injuries continue to account for the greatest overall spend in medical related costs for employers. So if we know these injuries are so prevalent, why are these injuries still such a problem?
Where’s the Silver Bullet?
One explanation is that employers may be only looking at the easily defined areas of potential injury such as external loads and forces in material handling. Another explanation is that the solutions many employers are implementing may not be specific enough to their workplace.
Research has shown us that musculoskeletal injury is not typically caused by any one variable and is often multifactorial. First conceptualized in 2001 by the National Research Council, it was theorized that both the workplace and the person each had a part in injury incidence. External loads, organizational factors and social context are all contributing factors from the workplace. Variables such as biomechanical loads, mechanical strain and the tolerance to them by the individual and pain/discomfort or impairment/disability experienced daily by the employee will then also have an impact on the function and performance of the person at work and will contribute to potential injury and injury rates. [i]
Critical Safety Mechanism—Your Employees
The most important safety mechanism you as an employer can have in place is your employees. Employees are the eyes, the ears, the hands, the brains, the feet which control the machines, operate the equipment, who climb the ladders and so on. They are better equipped than any machine or safety measure to assess, react to and avoid dangerous situations when properly trained in how to prevent injury or avoid it. Unfortunately, sometimes training isn’t enough though.
Remove Discomfort, Keep Employees
With the unemployment rate as low as it is right now, people may be more likely to change jobs as pay and benefits become more competitive or to get away from a job which hurt them previously. As the new employer you may have an employee who is reporting to your job site with some sort of discomfort or physical impairment. We know the safest workforce is made up of employees who are highly trained, safety conscious and free of pain/discomfort. These employees are more likely to be aware of their surroundings and not distracted by their impairments which improves their safety and the safety of those around them. Putting systems in place and providing services onsite to help make sure employees receive coaching can greatly increase the chances of minimizing accidents, improving your current workforce and reducing turnover.
An onsite therapist can be a great resource for your company to not only help assess the workplace for any potential risks, but to also help reduce employee pain/discomfort should it occur. If you would like more information, contact WorkWell today.