Safety at work is often viewed from the lens of preventing catastrophic accidents that lead to severe injuries or fatalities. Employers invest a great deal of time, effort, and money into equipment, tools, and processes that aid in this prevention effort. And they should! Employers are responsible for providing a safe working environment for their employees. National Safety Month, observed during the month of June, aims to build awareness of safety and health risks in the workplace and generate actions to mitigate these risks to eliminate preventable injuries and deaths.
Each week during June, National Safety Month focuses on a different workplace injury prevention topic. For 2023, these topics include:
slips, trips and falls
heat-related illness, and
Efforts in each of these areas build layers upon a foundation of safety, which hopefully lead to greater success in identifying hazards and reducing risks in the workplace.
An important workplace safety initiative that has become better recognized and understood within the last 10-15 years is the effort to identify and mitigate musculoskeletal issues. Workers have the fundamental right to go home from work in the same physical condition in which they arrived at work. So, while measures to prevent catastrophic injuries or fatalities are critical, measures to help prevent workers’ minor musculoskeletal aches and pains from turning into severe injuries are also essential.
Finding and addressing small problems early will protect workers throughout the employment lifespan - from hire to retirement and will positively impact the employer’s bottom line. One of the most common types of MSK injuries is repetitive stress or overuse injuries. These injuries often begin with periodic discomfort or muscle fatigue at the end of the work day or work task. Over time and if left unaddressed, this discomfort escalates into pain and inflammation that can create significant impairment and work disability.
Many MSK injuries can be prevented by implementing MSK safety programs as part of the overall safety culture. One such program is an onsite clinic. A managed onsite clinic, staffed by a licensed healthcare provider (PT, OT, or Athletic Trainer), provides workers convenient access to injury screening and, if applicable, OSHA-compliant first aid. More importantly, the healthcare provider can educate the worker in appropriate self-care along with the natural course of healing for discomfort, which both aid in alleviating fear. The healthcare provider also recognizes and acts upon when further care or diagnostics may be required. Onsite clinicians can also provide job coaching, functional job analysis, ergonomics, and other wellness services that benefit the workers and help prevent MSK injuries from happening in the first place.
Addressing the major issues and risks that affect overall workplace safety and the smaller issues and risks that impact an individual worker’s MSK wellness will lead to a safer environment where every worker gets to go home safe and healthy.