Health Care and Human Resources

Avoiding workplace injuries

December 5, 2016
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Whether you’re a small startup or an established corporation, preventing workplace injuries has never been more important. Recent estimates place the cost of occupational injuries to businesses at close to $170 billion, which means being proactive and preventing injuries is a great way for companies to improve their bottom lines.

Why do some companies experience frequent employee injuries while others go years without any? The issue of workplace injuries is often rooted in a select number of factors.

Consider the physical nature of the work, the duration of shift, the frequency and cadence of strenuous work, amount of sustained posture as well as the ergonomic equipment your employees are using. Can any of these factors be improved?

When it comes to workplace injuries, it’s less costly to prevent injuries rather than deal with them after they occur. Unfortunately, employee health is often deemed a personal issue. However, as an employer, the right (and most cost effective) thing to do is to take responsibility and educate your employees about potential workplace injuries and empower them to take action to help prevent them.

One way to be proactive is looking at a fully integrated approach to care. It is important to appropriately and legally assess new hires with a post-offer, pre-employment screening and baseline evaluations. Once hired, preventive services — such assessments and ongoing education and wellness coaching — play a role in keeping your current employees healthy. If an employee is injured, job-specific physical rehabilitation is key in ensuring a safe return to work. As your workforce ages, it’s vital to monitor patterns of degradation to prevent injuries and maintain productivity.

As you assess your current approach toward the management of workplace injuries, here are some basic tips that can reduce the chances of a workplace injury:

Office workers

Take breaks: Prolonged sitting can result in tension and strain. Make sure to take a five- or 10-minute break each hour. Standing up or walking around can help adjust your posture from an unnatural, forward-flexed position to a neutral position.

Maintain proper posture: When your joints are aligned properly you will have improved function and less pain or stiffness. Poor posture leaves your joints out of the correct position. Try protruding your neck forward and try to look over each shoulder. Then, return your head over your shoulders and try again. You should notice improved function and decreased pain or stiffness.

Use the right desk design: Designing your desk efficiently will help you maintain proper posture. Place items you use frequently within arm’s reach. Less-used items can be placed farther away.

Labor-intensive workers

Use proper lifting techniques: Lifting heavy objects using incorrect form will result in injury. When picking up objects, make sure to use a squatting motion — bending at the hips and knees, not by bending at the back. Your knees should not go beyond your toes in this position.

Take breaks to stretch: Doing anything repetitively for too long will result in an injury. Make sure to take frequent breaks to stretch. It also is key to stretch as you begin to feel symptoms like stiffness or aches. Stretching can help improve your long-term performance at work.

Alert someone of injury as soon as possible: In a labor-intensive work environment, your physical health is your livelihood so make sure your supervisor is made aware of any injuries right away. The sooner you deal with an issue, the sooner you can resume your normal level of function. If you wait too long to alert someone, the company may or may not be liable to cover the rehabilitation process.

Workplace safety and wellness is an often overlooked and underfunded area of business that can have dramatic impacts on revenue if not addressed properly. However, major health concerns and injuries can be avoided with proper education about posture, movements and using the body more efficiently to complete tasks. This education can be used not just at work, but outside of work too, whether you are an athlete, a hunter, or a parent or grandparent wanting to pick up their grandchild.

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