The traditional approach to musculoskeletal health management is to reactively treat injuries as they occur. This treatment model is failing us.
People keep falling off a cliff. It’s a perplexing phenomenon, but it keeps happening so the people of the town get together to decide what to do about it.
Is it smarter to build a fence at the top of the cliff or to put an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff?
A fence at the top of the cliff is proactive and prevention-focused. The fence prevents people from getting hurt. It keeps them whole.
An ambulance at the bottom of the cliff is reactive and treatment-focused. The ambulance waits for someone to fall and then treats the injured person, putting together the broken pieces.
So fence or ambulance? A focus on prevention or treatment?
The choice is obvious when it’s framed this way. An ambulance is a good idea (and maybe one should be on call just in case), but a strong fence is a clear necessity — obviously we should do everything we can to keep people safe and prevent them from unnecessary injuries.
Unfortunately, when it comes to musculoskeletal health there aren’t nearly enough strong fences being built — and people keep falling off the cliff.
The reactive, treatment-focused approach has failed us
The traditional approach is to wait until a musculoskeletal injury occurs before employees get the help they need.
This treatment model is failing. It fails people who work hard for a living and it fails organizations who collectively spend over $1 billion per week treating musculoskeletal injuries. This is the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, putting together the broken pieces.
The first step to better musculoskeletal health in your organization is to acknowledge that a treatment-first approach is broken.
A treatment-focused approach fails people
Musculoskeletal injuries and disorders are frustrating for the organization and for the safety team, but that’s nothing compared to what the employee experiences.
Pain. Loss of function. Surgery. Prescription medications. Rehab.
As if that’s not bad enough, studies show that employees who experience a disabling MSD have their incomes reduced by up to 40% over a five year period, which translates into a drastic and long-lasting impact on their ability to provide for their family and their quality of life as a whole.
People keep falling off the cliff. We need to build a strong fence.
A treatment-focused approach fails your business
Organizations take a beating on musculoskeletal health. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the facts:
- MSDs account for one-third of all workers compensation costs.
- MSDs account for almost 400,000 injuries every year.
- Direct costs of MSDs are $20 billion a year. Total costs are estimated to be between $45-54 billion.
- Indirect costs (lost productivity, product defects, etc.) of an MSD case can be up to five times the direct costs.
- MSD cases require 38% more lost time days than the average injury/illness.
- At a 3% profit margin, your company needs to generate over $8 million in additional sales to cover $260,000 in MSD costs
People keep falling off the cliff. Building a strong fence can be a competitive advantage for your business.
Better approach. Better outcomes.
To achieve better outcomes for employees and for your organization, you’ll need to take a difference approach. A better, smarter approach to musculoskeletal health.
MSDs are preventable, so think prevention first. It’s the approach that’s good for employees, good for organizations, and good for safety leaders.
This article is the first in a series about a better approach to musculoskeletal health. Over the next few weeks, we’ll talk about how to build a stronger fence.
Stay tuned …