Workplace Wellness

According to a study performed by the American Society of Safety Engineers, statistics recorded by the Bureau of Labor state that
“musculoskeletal disorders account for one-third of all worker injury and illness cases”. OSHA states “injuries of the muscles, tendons, joints, and
nerves caused or aggravated by work are amongst the most frequently reported causes of restriction from work. Other work-related musculoskeletal disorders can include carpel tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, rotator cuff injuries, epicondylitis, and lumbar strains (OSHA 2016).”

Sports fans have spent years watching athletes warm up before a game or competition. What many people don’t see
is the continuous conditioning routines that athletes maintain on and off the field that incorporate strength-training, aerobic/cardio, and flexibility. Organized athletic programs (starting as early as grade school) require specific conditioning for all their athletes. These programs serve multiple purposes—including building endurance, strengthening performance, and protecting the athlete’s body—which are implemented into various exercise regimens by physical trainers.

Every employer knows that, without healthy employees, it is impossible to deliver on service commitments to clients. Stress in the work environment can manifest in a variety of forms, the two most prevalent being psychological and physiological. While employees working in an office environment may not be subjected to the strains of heavy physical labor, they are no less susceptible to work-related stress.

Administrative team members are often sitting for long hours at a desk, staring at a computer screen, engaged in little to no physical activity for most of the day. We often discover that these individuals don’t maintain proper posture while working and have developed poor day-to-day habits (such as cradling a phone in their neck while trying to multitask). Another condition that contributes to injuries for administrative employees is a deficiently designed work station.

Production and manufacturing employees can find themselves standing for hours in the same location, repeating the same physical movements for long periods of time during the assembly process. The most frequent deficiencies noted in these environments are inappropriate footwear, poorly designed work stations, and a lack of appropriate work-surfaces.

The typical trade-laborer wears equipment that may consist of a belt heavily loaded with tools while performing strenuous activities for 8-12 hours a day, at times working from ladders and scaffolds. Examples of strenuous tasks include (but are not limited to) lifting heavy loads, carrying loads from Point A to Point B, overhead-reaching, bending, twisting, and climbing. Extreme temperatures also contribute to strenuous working conditions for these individuals.

“Stretch and Flex” is a term that many employers are familiar with. The problem with “Stretch and Flex” is there is no actionable data recorded that demonstrates the positive impact of these programs. The real issue is lack of education and the over-emphasis of isolating a single aspect of exercise that, on its own, is irrelevant and will have no measurable impact.

Stretching is best defined as a form of exercise that involves the flexing and extending of specific muscle groups to improve elasticity within the muscle. Stretching increases the muscle’s flexibility, blood-flow, and range of motion. There are two forms of stretching: static and dynamic. Static stretching is often referred to as “in place”-stretching and involves holding the stretch for a certain period of time (typically 30-60 seconds), similar-in-effect to the act of a dog stretching each time he gets up. Dynamic stretching involves movement of the body while stretching. A common example would be “walking high knees,” which focuses on stretching the hip flexors, quadriceps, and lower extremities.

Therefore, if well-defined and targeted stretching programs are implemented correctly at the start of the workday, you should recognize several positive factors: flexibility, increased blood flow, extended range of motion, and even increased mental alertness and focus. Warming up the body before working is one component of a comprehensive Health and Wellness program that will reduce work-related injuries and increase workplace production.

It is essential that employers are mindful of their work environments and the impact of work processes on employees. A well-designed Health and Wellness program can identify engineering deficiencies in the work environment, isolate repetitive activities that can lead to long-term health issues, and establish PPE requirements where engineering alone will not abate potential injury. A comprehensive plan will include Health Risk Assessments, Health Screenings, Wellness Coaching and Healthy Living Education.

Premier Risk Management can tailor a Health and Wellness Program for your organization and maximize your return on investment. Contact us today to schedule an opportunity to learn more about these valuable programs.

// Kim Bentley, M.Ed., NDTR, CHES

Director, Health and Wellness