Ready, Aim, Fire! 5 Steps to Successful Injury Prevention
Proactively addressing sprains & strains or worker health & wellbeing is important for any organisation as it enhances compliance, productivity and affordability. The long term benefits of these types of programs have been well researched and include reduced absenteeism rates, reduced employee smoking rates, and reduced work place injuries. All of this leads to a reduced workers compensation premium and a better quality of life for your workers.
In the past 8 years there has been a dramatic increase in organisations attempting to proactively implement health & injury prevention programs with mixed results, yet there are some fundamental steps organisations are not implementing that are essential to success. This includes a failure to line up clear targets at which to aim before implementing a new strategy.
In the following paragraphs we look at common mistakes OHS officers make and discuss the 5 key elements that are critical to achieving both long term behaviour change and sustainable, measurable outcomes.
1. Do Your Research
Before implementing a program you must first set out a clear vision and budget. What is it you want to achieve? How much do you want to spend? Who will be the key stakeholders?
2. Establish your KPI’S
How will you measure success? This step is one of the most difficult and is often left out. Programs with no clearly defined goals will achieve little and go on forever, so it is imperative to determine your Key Performance Indicators from the outset. You need to discuss these with your insurer and all stakeholders and find out what results they want to see. The results should be measurable. Your analysis of a reduced Workers Compensation premium will be made up of 3 to 4 KPI’s.
3. Set Baseline & Get Approval
Establish the baseline (where you are at right now). Collect the information you will need to measure and compare against. Identify your high risk areas and focus on these. This stage, together with your KPI’s will help your approvals process to run much smoother as there is a clear direction with measurable outcomes.
4. Implement a Strategy to Target the High Risk Areas
This is more often than not where organisations fail to achieve success. Frequently the lead person is swamped with other work and they are not able to focus on the program. This process is driven by your measurables, and your focus needs to be on high risk areas. Most importantly, implementation needs to be realistic and relevant. For example:
Sprain and strain injury prevention programs that implement the same generic manual handling procedures for all workers across the board are doomed to failure. Teaching concreters or steel fixers to ‘bend their knees and keep their back straight’ when they have no option but to work in stooped positions is a pointless exercise.
Similarly Health and Wellbeing Programs that focus on exercise are not sustainable for workers that complete heavy physical labour. Guys coming off a 12 hour shift working in the sun all day are exhausted, the last thing they want to do is go out and exercise. Under these circumstances, programs focusing on nutrition will be easier to implement, achieve higher success rates, and be far more sustainable in the long term.
Start off with the highest risk areas or those causing the biggest issues and implement simple realistic strategies to reduce them.
5. Evaluate Your Results
The program is well underway, now it is time to measure those KPI’s against your baseline and evaluate how successful the program was or is. I would never call it success or failure as you have tried to implement something so that is a big tick, getting it right is the next step. Can you quantify your return on investment? Was it reduced premiums? If so by how much? Was it a decrease in smokers? If so by how much?
Find the research that puts a dollar value on this and make your ROI very visible. Go back to your key stakeholders and report on this.
Where to from here?
There are now numerous government organisations that provide free advice, information and resources particularly for health and wellbeing initiatives that you can tailor to suit the needs of your employees. With the sprain and strain programs, it does require a bit more work.
About the Author
Eoghan McKenna is an accredited Exercise Physiologist & Managing Director at Logic Health.