April is National Occupational Therapy month, so we thought it fitting to recognize the work that occupational therapists do in the area of work injury prevention and management.
I have been an occupational therapist for 31 years. For 31 years, people have asked me if I help people get jobs. The answer to that question is “no.” The word “occupation” simply refers to meaningful everyday activities and roles, which may include working at a job. While OTs don’t help people get jobs, they do help workers stay healthy and on the job. As licensed healthcare professionals, occupational therapists strive to help individuals achieve their optimal level of function when there has been a disruption in their ability to perform routine daily activities due to injury, illness, or disability. OTs work in a variety of settings, including industry.
So, while I have never helped people get employment, I have always aimed to help people feel safer and more comfortable doing their work. Through workplace wellness, job analysis, and ergonomics initiatives, I have had the opportunity to positively impact the lives of workers in both office and industrial settings. Here are a few ways occupational therapists or other healthcare professionals serve in a consultative role in a workplace setting to help keep workers healthy and working.
Education & Training
Benefits of movement and physical activity
Importance of microbreaking and posture changes
Safe lifting techniques
Avoiding awkward postures for safer work performance
Strategies to change how a work task is performed
Adjusting the position of a keyboard or computer monitor to ensure a neutral body position
Enlarging the size of a tool handle to reduce the required grip force
Adapting the activity, not the person performing the activity
Make the work task different to make it safer
Alter the physical environment to eliminate a lifting task or decrease the distance/height of a lift
Change the size, shape, or dimensions of an object that needs to be manually handled
Recommend changes to the work environment based on an understanding of the physical demands of the job.
Occupational therapists help people do the daily occupations they need and want to do. As part of WorkWell’s Managed Onsite MSK clinic programs, we identify the right resources for the employer site, whether it is a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, or an athletic trainer. Happy OT Month!