For Employers: Preventing Back Injuries in Employees
Every employee has the potential for injury. However, your employee's increased knowledge of spine protection and stabilization/strengthening minimizes the risk of injury and reinjury.
Risk Factors for Neck and Low Back Pain
Many risk factors have been identified. They include occupational as well as non-occupational factors.
Occupational factors may include:
- Repetitive heavy lifting, twisting, reaching and bending
- Repetitive manual material handling
- Exposure to continuous whole-body vibration
- Prolonged, static posture (especially if posture is awkward or confined)
- Poor job satisfaction
Non-occupational factors may include:
- Poor physical condition (lack of exercise, overweight)
- Poor posture
- Advanced age
- Psychosocial stressors, such as depression, financial factors
Reducing Risk of Low Back Injuires
- Train safety personnel and supervisors on proper material handling and lifting techniques so they in turn can train and supervise employees to follow through with proper techniques.
- Provide appropriate equipment for the job (for example, an ergonomic office chair, mechanical assistive device for lifting heavy/awkward objects, cart on wheels to transport objects).
- Keep work area and equipment properly maintained.
- Allow task rotation (for example, moving through different tasks during the day to avoid undue stress and repetition).
- Alternate work tasks between sitting and standing to reduce postural (static muscle) fatigue.
- Set up work area to minimize frequent reaching, leaning, twisting and bending.
- Reduce employee fatigue by allowing stretch breaks.
- Encourage employees to take part in a fitness program and/or provide a wellness program through your company.
Preventing Long-Term Disabilities
The SpineCare team believes it is possible to prevent long-term disability in employees with nonspecific low back pain. The following factors are critical:
- Early intervention (less than 6 weeks after injury).
- Early paced activity and graded regular exercise avoiding deconditioning and reduce anxiety reinjury.
- Timely, regular communication among the treatment team, employer and employee early detection of “yellow flags” by the team that may hinder recovery and return to work, such as depression, anxiety, job dissatisfaction and fear of reinjury.
- Promote early safe return to work with support from employer, supervisors and coworkers such as allow return to work in modified capacity.
- Allow onsite job assessment by SpineCare’s Ergonomic Evaluator Specialist who will assist the patient in integrating learned principals/techniques into work environment.
Job Site Analysis
SpineCare staff works with employees and with safety and human resources personnel to help employees incorporate correct body mechanics and lifting/material handling practices. We can also help identify critical job demands and ways to meet them efficiently and safely. This cooperative approach allows SpineCare and safety or human resources personnel to integrate back protection techniques for successful return-to-work, and helps employees integrate learned body mechanics and lifting techniques into daily work situations.
Returning to Work for Injured Employees
How soon a patient is able to return to work will vary depending on the type and severity of injury. Every person heals differently. Once your employee begins the stabilization program at SpineCare, the SpineCare team will reassess your injured employee's ability to return to work.
Clinical research has consistently shown that early return to work (even in a modified capacity) is associated with better overall outcome and lower costs. As back care providers in today's market, we're aware that managing health care costs is vital to employers. That's why, for example, we offer a unique "shared risk" global fee package which allows you to anticipate the costs from the outset and meet injured employees' needs.
To facilitate return to work for the injured worker, the employer can follow the return to work recommendations provided by the SpineCare team. A well thought out and organized modified duty program to transition your injured employee back to work greatly facilitates our goal of early reactivation and return to work, both of which have shown to improve outcomes and reduce costs.
Minimizing Employee Cost
It is true that about 20 percent of injured workers account for over 80 percent of the costs for treatment and disability in the workplace. Although we don't have all the answers to this problem, we do have a team of physicians, physical therapists, a clinical psychologist and other staff who work together to identify potentially complicated cases early on so that stakeholders—the employee, employer and treatment team—can work for the best possible outcome.
Internal auditing has shown our surgical rate to be the lowest in the community. However, sometimes surgery is necessary. At SpineCare, we are committed to identifying the need for surgery early to avoid the burdensome additional costs and risks associated with the delay of appropriate care, and to avoiding surgical treatment unless a well-defined need exists.