Oh, My Aching Back!

ferrari-1111580_1280Companies that want to hold down workers comp and other occupational health costs should take a hard look at how they are addressing back problems.   OSHA says one-in-five workplace injuries is are back-related.  It causes untold misery for employees and limits their on-the-job ability.  For employers it is a nightmare.  According to the Integrated Benefits Institute, low-back pain costs employers $51,400 annually per 100 employees in lost productivity and medical treatments.

What can employers do to reduce painful back injuries and the related costs in the workplace?  CORE Health Networks, a leading provider of integrated occupational health, practices a three-pronged approach:

  1. Make sure new hires are fit for their new job duties – CORE arranges and reviews simple exams or more involved functional assessments from more than 1300 occupational clinics to make sure new hires do not have congenital or existing conditions that could put them at risk for particular duties.
  2. Medical surveillance – Some of our most experienced, valuable workers are the most at risk because of the potential for injury in an aging workforce.  If an employee’s health or medical conditions change, CORE can review the change to help determine if they are fit for their current duties and what alternative duties may allow them to return to work without increasing the risk of injury.
  3. Post-incident intervention – The company provides a hotline to RNs with experience in injury care, workers comp and OSHA recordkeeping requirements.  Medical studies have shown that early intervention and ongoing communication with workers is effective in getting them the right care at the right time and allowing them to return to work sooner.  Under one study, early intervention was shown to reduce time away from the job for back injuries in half.

What else works?   Certainly it is important to train workers on proper techniques for lifting object.  It is more important to analyze whether there are alternatives to lifting those objects at all.  Some companies have even started stretching exercises with their workers and reporting surprisingly good result.

If you would like more information on back injuries and prevention techniques, OSHA has a good resource here. 

If you would like to learn more about CORE Health Networks, feel free to contact me at kwells@corehealthnet.com.

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