Last week’s article on the current state of musculoskeletal health management can be summed up into a simple statement:
The bottom line is that organizations are struggling to implement effective solutions to a known, well-defined, and costly problem.
Through our engagement with numerous organizations over the last 30 years, we’ve seen three primary reasons organizations struggle to get a handle on musculoskeletal injuries. This is the status quo of musculoskeletal health management:
- A reactive approach perpetuates a downward spiral
- Organizational silos lower effectiveness of solutions
- Lack of common goals, tools, and information hampers decision making
Does this narrative sound familiar? Whether your organization suffers from one or all the reasons above, there is hope because there is a better way.
Here’s the thing. The obstacle is the way, as Marcus Aurelius wisely pointed out, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
In other words, a challenge accepted is an opportunity. It’s a gift, and the first step to adopting a better approach for your organization is to understand the opportunity in front of you.
Understanding the musculoskeletal health opportunity
Most organizations lack a critical piece of context about musculoskeletal health, and some organizations miss it entirely. Here it is: managing musculoskeletal health well is a huge opportunity that impacts the entire business.
It impacts the areas you would expect it to like safety and wellness, yes, but it can also have a dramatic impact in other areas like productivity, company culture, and brand reputation.
The cost of poor musculoskeletal health has been well established. They are the most common and costly injuries in industry today. A well-managed, effective, and sustainable process to prevent these injuries drastically lowers direct and indirect costs. This data alone is sufficient to convince most managers there is enough opportunity to create enough value to see a substantial return on dollars invested in prevention.
Wellness programs that focus on weight loss contests and better food in the break room are good. You should do those things. But there is a better way, especially for industrial sites.
Implementing an “industrial athlete” program is a more practical, motivating, and enduring way to educate and motivate your people to adopt healthier lifestyle changes.
Teach them how to use their bodies to work. Teach them useful self-care techniques to prepare their bodies for work and to recover after each work day – just like a professional athlete does.
These programs, often led by an industrial athletic trainer as a best practice, add much more value to the day-to-day operations of your business and to your people’s lives than a flash in the pan, short-term wellness initiative.
The ergonomics improvement process reduces ergonomic risk factors and improves the interaction between the work and the worker. Done well, this process removes barriers to productivity and makes job tasks easier and faster to accomplish.
In today’s competitive business environment, it is a mistake to ignore ergonomics as a valuable and necessary process to making the best product in the most efficient way.
Safety culture is the attitude, beliefs, perceptions and values that employees share in relation to safety in the workplace. When employees are experiencing excessive fatigue, discomfort and eventually injuries what do you think their attitude, belief and perception of your organization is? What do employees think the organization really values?
Mismanaging musculoskeletal health is a culture killer, but consider the flip side for a moment. What if your ergonomics process made regular improvements to the work environment, making jobs easier for employees? What if you had an industrial athlete program that taught employees practical self-care techniques to make their day go better? What if you had an industrial athletic trainer on staff that made regular visits to the shop floor to work one-on-one with employees to make sure fatigue and discomfort is identified early enough so that it could be resolved before an injury occurred?
These regular workplace improvements and actions to improve the lives of your workforce are noticed. It’s how culture is shaped, one workstation and one person at a time.
We’re living in an advanced society with radical transparency and increasingly high standards and expectations for brands to behave responsibly. In an age of ubiquitous information and a digital social web, nothing happens in a vacuum. Companies are required to be transparent. Word spreads. We are all accountable to each other.
Why not craft a positive brand reputation around your musculoskeletal health initiative? Your people aren’t employees. They’re industrial athletes. They’re on a team. You’re all in it together, building the best product you can as part of a high performing team that is well cared for and cared about.
That’s a brand reputation you can be proud of.
Three organizational imperatives for better musculoskeletal health management
Accomplishing the benefits described above requires adopting a forward-thinking, best practice approach to musculoskeletal health management. Below are three organizational imperatives you must drive in your organization to get there. They are the solutions to the reasons for the current state of musculoskeletal health management that is so ineffective.
- Shift your focus to a prevention-focused, upstream model of care
- Deploy the upstream model through a specialized provider who bridges the discipline gap
- Leverage technology to break down silos and meet the common goals of organizational stakeholders
1. Shift your focus to a prevention-focused, upstream model of care
You can only control so much cost once an injury occurs. That is why for the last several decades, proactive organizations have been progressively moving healthcare upstream.
Move beyond compliance and adopt a prevention-focused, upstream model of health care. It is the most cost-effective, efficient, and sustainable model of care for musculoskeletal health.
2. Deploy the upstream model through a specialized provider who bridges the discipline gap
Musculoskeletal health is a complex issue with physical, environmental, mental, and psychosocial factors. Your organization likely has subject matter experts with much to contribute to proactive musculoskeletal health efforts but organizational silos make these efforts to contribute more difficult.
A comprehensive, total solution is required. Our experience has been that proactive musculoskeletal health initiatives are most successful when deployed through a specialized provider who bridges the discipline gap. Their role is “injury prevention specialist” and their responsibility is exactly that — to prevent injuries through a total, comprehensive approach that incorporates all the musculoskeletal health disciplines.
3. Leverage technology to break down silos and meet the common goals of organizational stakeholders
A technology platform for musculoskeletal health should be used to break down silos and ensure your efforts are meeting the goals of each stakeholder.
Leave behind the paper methods and legacy software that is crippling your ability to manage musculoskeletal health well throughout the organization.
Only by creating a central source of truth and distributing it throughout the organization will you be able to achieve alignment between stakeholders and drive measurable and sustainable progress.
This post is the third installment in a new series on musculoskeletal health management.
To make sure you don’t miss out on each installment of the series, sign up for a free E+ Education account. You’ll get updates delivered straight to your inbox — plus you’ll get access to an exclusive collection of ergonomics and injury prevention resources just for signing up.
See you next week!