Getting to Zero: An Ergonomic Injury Prevention Case Study

Musculoskeletal disorders among American workers have plateaued in recent years. In 2012, ergonomic injuries in the workplace accounted for 34 percent of all occupational injuries and illnesses, according to BLS stats. Further statistics also reveal that workplace musculoskeletal disorder injuries take longer to heal with MSDs taking 12 days to return to work to the average of 9 days for all other injuries.

Sprains, strains, and tears are other workplace injuries that have flat lined over the past few years and accounted for 38 percent of total injury and illness cases requiring days away from work in 2012. And these numbers don’t even reflect the employees that work in pain and discomfort day-in and day-out adversely affecting productivity and driving up costs.

How does a company beat the odds and smash through the plateau of occupational MSDs?

A division of a Fortune 500 company found the answer to that question.

 

Background

This 285-person safety supply manufacturer struggled for 30 years with a high employee injury rate. Prior to its acquisition by a Fortune 500 company, it experienced 9 to 15 workplace injuries per year. The injury rate per hundred employees was 5.69. Most of the injuries were ergonomic related and total costs for injury claims ran about $650,000 per year.

Solution

Newly-installed plant management implemented a comprehensive safety program that eliminated hazards and established safety as a priority. But the program was unable to solve the costly ergonomic-related injuries that it had been experiencing year over year.

They explored various solutions until they decided on a revolutionary system that combines occupational therapy, employee conditioning, and injury prevention in one package. The InjuryFree Employee Maintenance Center (EMC) has developed a state-of-the-art onsite therapy center that utilizes medical-grade equipment to diagnose, treat, and prevent ergonomic-related injuries in the workplace.

Their services assist all types of companies, from mid-size offices to heavy industry, reduce risk and prevent injury with a focus on ergonomic solutions and health improvements by Certified and Licensed Health Professionals.

Types of Injuries

InjuryFree CEO, Trent Shuford explains the situation at the facility, They were having upper extremity and low back issues and there was one department that had a high number of neck and shoulder injuries. Our evaluation looked at the types of services that could be rendered in order to lower those injuries. We focused on a back program and an upper extremity program as a way to address this plant’s risk issues. The back and neck program is important because of its ability to strengthen the core muscles of the body. Each time we go into a new company, we actually analyze what type of injuries are most occurring and then we adapt the EMC program to their facility.

An Employee Maintenance Center is designed to meet four key objectives:

  • Reduce musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace.
  • Reduce workers compensation and related costs.
  • Identify and reduce risk.
  • Increase worker productivity.

The in-house Employee Maintenance Center reduces employees’ risk of injury by addressing their aches and pains early…before they become more serious. Once pain is effectively dealt with, at-risk employees participate in the EMC’s targeted conditioning programs using sophisticated machines that focus on particular muscle-and-joint systems to ensure they possess the physical attributes to perform their jobs safely.

“To do any job safely it requires a certain level of strength, flexibility and endurance, as well as knowledge of how to avoid hurting oneself. The purpose of the EMC is to ensure workers possess these necessary biophysical traits and body-awareness education to avoid injury,” explained Shuford.

The EMC’s Fit for Duty program provided workers access to equipment for back, neck, shoulders, elbows, hands, wrists, knees and ankles. The EMC at this facility covered just over 1,000 square feet and was initially staffed with two InjuryFree team members to support the initial demand for services. EMC services are provided during and after shift times for everyone’s convenience. Recommended employee session times range from 10 to 15 minutes per day.

Results

For the first time in its existence, this plant went a year without an OSHA-reportable injury and, in fact, succeeded in reaching 18 months. Estimated injury claim savings over 17 months amounted to $920,000.

The factory averaged a 91% employee utilization rate over an 18-month period to December 31, 2012. The EMC utilization rate is double and triple the rate of most employee fitness programs, in part, to its ease-of-access and its targeted approach.

Total visits by factory personnel = 11,192

Each concern or physical issue the participant expressed was related to a specific body part. The 11,192 visits that were provided to the 258 participants were spread over 490 body parts. With the low back, neck, shoulders, wrists, hands and knees being the top issues.