The food production industry has higher than average injury rates. In fact, food industry workers have a 60 percent higher rate of occupational illness and injury than workers in non-food industries, and a lost-time injury rate is more than twice as high. As food processing workers return to work from recent shutdowns, the risk of injury increases.
These injuries can include:
Soreness and pain
Ligaments and tendon tears from overexertion or repeated bending, climbing, crawling, reaching or twisting
Lower back pain
Slips, trips, and falls
Exposure to fumes, molds, and other toxic substances
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Being hit by moving objects
What causes these injuries?
Overexertion – The work often requires physical tasks such as heavy lifting.
Repetitive motion – Workers repeatedly performing the same movement can develop repetitive strain injuries. The body’s soft tissues start to wear down.
Body movement injuries – Many injuries occur because the worker is continuously bending, crawling, twisting, and reaching in awkward positions.
A Proven Solution - Onsite Injury Prevention
In most cases, when an employee is injured and they go offsite for treatment, the employee never returns – they either quit or they aren’t cleared for accommodations to their existing job because the doctor or the therapist doesn’t understand the work environment/ job well enough.
This is one of the reasons why food manufacturing and distribution facilities are implementing onsite injury prevention and treatment programs as part of their overall total wellness initiatives.
The plant/operations manager would prefer to treat injured employees onsite so that they can look at modifications, accommodations and keep the employee engaged in getting back to work (retention).
Onsite PTs become familiar, trusted faces to workers and are quickly accepted as full-fledged team members. As workers build relationships with PTs, they become comfortable asking for help and advice early to avoid a small issue turning into something big. What’s more, PTs will notice when workers are having issues and can walk over to their stations with on-the-spot suggestions.
Typically, companies can experience an average return on investment of 3:1 to 5:1 when they institute onsite injury prevention. The average employee’s time away from work can be reduced by as much as 36% through early intervention treatment which eliminates the need to travel to an off-site facility.
This helps with lost productivity, retention, and costs. Onsite PT programs can also help reduce both the number of workers’ comp claims and decrease the total annual claims cost.
The key is to infuse physical therapists into the food industry supply chain from pre-employment to ergonomic reviews.