Prevent It

WorkWell's Workplace Injury Prevention Blog

Why it's so Important to Manage MSK Health Throughout the Employee Journey

MSK ProgramsMaintaining a best-in-class corporate safety culture means taking a holistic approach to employees’ wellbeing throughout their tenure – from the moment of hire until they leave the company.

This means taking proactive steps to reduce work injuries, such as providing work readiness programs and onsite physical therapy, ergonomic, and job coaching services to help employees avoid strains and recover from injuries when they do occur.

With musculoskeletal (MSK) problems cited as the most common cause of worker absenteeism, keeping work-related MSK disorders to a minimum is vital. These disorders, especially common among aging adults, can severely impact workers’ physical and mental health, negatively impacting their quality of life and often leading to absenteeism and long-term disability.

There are specific steps you can take at three different points during the worker’s employment with your firm – pre-employment, onboarding, and during their employment tenure. Each employment phase can be enhanced with appropriate safety protocols and programs designed to protect your employees’ MSK health.

Pre-Employment - Qualifying the Candidate’s Fitness for the Job with POET

It’s vital to hire people who are fully capable of performing the job, so they don’t injure themselves straining to do work beyond their abilities. Start with an accurate, up-to-date functional job description that fully details the position’s physical requirements. Then, the employment offer should be contingent on the candidate’s passing a post-offer employment test (POET) that objectively measures their ability to adequately perform the physical duties of the job as defined by the functional job description.

There is no need to exclude critically‐needed applicants from the POET process because you think it may take too long or scare off candidates. POET usually takes just 2‐3 days from request to result; both background and drug tests often take longer. POET is not meant to fail numerous applicants, just to identify high‐risk hires who are a minority of your applicants. A POET program helps you optimize your hiring outcomes, and that leads to higher productivity and lower turnover. Factor in a typical reduction in Workers' Compensation claims and indirect costs, and you can expect up to a six‐fold ROI on your program costs.

Onboarding - Work Conditioning for Stronger, More Flexible Employees

Once employees join the organization, part of the onboarding process could include a work readiness program that improves their strength, flexibility, and endurance. These programs help workers safely begin a new job, especially if it’s more physically demanding than their previous roles. Often led by onsite physical therapists, work readiness programs continue throughout employment, helping workers stay fit enough to safely perform their work.

Employment – Onsite Injury Prevention and Treatment Programs

Onsite physical therapists provide ongoing job coaching and worksite reviews to help companies provide a healthier, more ergonomic work environment. By proactively observing employees as they work, physical therapists instruct workers on how to safely and correctly perform a task so they avoid injuries and muscle strains.

For workers who do get injured on the job, an onsite clinic staffed with trained physical therapists provide convenient, effective treatments that minimize patients’ pain and shorten their disability period. Having a trusted therapist at the work site may also encourage workers to report strains and discomfort before they become debilitating injuries. Employees don't need to travel to a PT clinic or another site to receive treatment which minimizes time away from work or home life. The onsite PT works with employees as it relates directly to the FJD to modify or create a return to work plan that allows a gradual return to the job. The assessment is made by someone familiar with the job - not a doctor or PT at an offsite clinic.

Post-Injury - Safely Returning to Work

If an employee is injured and is ready to return to work, post-injury testing validates if they can safely resume their duties. If not, a post-injury management plan designed by the manager, therapist, and employee can set expectations and outline appropriate tasks the individual can perform during the transition back to full employment.

Building Successful MSK Safety Programs

MSK health –- being able to move without pain -- is critical to an individual’s productivity and overall wellbeing, affecting someone’s physical, mental and emotional health.

A well-designed onsite MSK wellness program minimizes worker injuries and enhances employee morale. Corporate benefits include improved OSHA compliance, decreased absenteeism and presenteeism, extended work-life of valued employees, and reduced turnover. Comprehensive MSK programs contribute significantly to the health and wellbeing of employees, enhancing the safety culture, by boosting morale and employee trust.

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