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Breaking Through the Musculoskeletal Plateau

Published in The Journal of Workers Compensation, Summer 2008 by Trent Shuford, Dr. Daniel Nelson and Jon Siegel

Introduction

The American manufacturing industry has made significant strides over the past 50 years in the area of worker protection. Whether mandated by government agencies or by economic and human re-
sources drivers, safety programs have gone far to reduce fatalities and injuries in the workplace.

Yet further examination of the injury data available indicates that areas exist where substantial improvements may yet be made. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report for 2006, “Sprains and strains was (sic) the leading nature of injury and illness in every major industry sector.”1 Sprains, strains, microtrauma, and repetitive stress injuries contribute significantly to the overall cost of injuries in the workplace. It is in this area that significant improvements in injury reduction can be made.

This article describes the genesis and results of a focused program, called the Employee Maintenance Center, which is designed to meet four key objectives:

  1. Reduce musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace
  2. Reduce workers compensation and related costs
  3. Identify and reduce risk
  4. Increase worker productivity

In 2005, Kimberly-Clark’s Conway, Arkansas, manufacturing facility launched a pilot program with InjuryFree, Inc., to reduce musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace, particularly those injuries resulting from microtrauma and repetitive stress. After three years of continuous program operation, injuries and related costs at the Conway facility have shown a significant and steady decline. This article is a description of that three-year program and a report of its results.

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