For a large inner-city hotel, it was easy to identify that staff performing highly physical manual handling tasks such as housekeeping and maintenance could benefit from an onsite physiotherapy service. These work areas presented with the highest injury rates and staff in these work area performed manual tasks that were perceived as most hazardous. What the business did not anticipate were the benefits to the rest of their staff once the Onsite Physiotherapy Service was in place.

In this case study, we will look at one administration worker’s injury pathway and the positive impact of the Onsite Physiotherapy service.

Meet Terri*; a 38 year old accounts officer experiencing right forearm pain when using the mouse and typing after a particularly busy end of month period. Terri would normally work as
part of a three person team but one co-worker was away so her workload had significantly increased over a two week period. She was considering seeing her GP about the problem when she reported the injury to her supervisor. Thankfully, her supervisor referred her to the onsite physiotherapy service for an initial assessment.

At Terri’s onsite physiotherapy appointment, a thorough history and physical examination revealed the early stages of an inflammatory overuse tendon problem (Lateral Epicondylitis) and immediate treatment such as manual therapy and taping was provided. Terri was also provided with self-management advice and prescribed an exercise program.

For workers accessing physiotherapy and/or medical treatment in the community, information related to the worksite, equipment and workload can be vague at best and limited to the information presented by worker. Being “onsite” however, the physiotherapist was also able to perform an ergonomic assessment of Terri’s workstation to identify potential risk factors associated with her desk setup and her work flow and liaise directly with her supervisor about the injury.

It is this amplified value of the physiotherapy treatment when combined with specific work related advice that makes an onsite physiotherapy service so potent.

Based on Terri’s workstation assessment, the changes to her chair, keyboard and mouse position immediately improved her comfort levels whilst using the mouse. She also needed a foot rest so the onsite physiotherapist placed some reams of paper as a temporary solution and arranged for her manager to order the equipment Terri needed. They also discussed Terri’s usual work flow and workload and identified the need for Terri to take more regular work breaks during the day. To assist her, the onsite physiotherapist sug
gested using an hourly reminder system. Terri’s supervisor had the idea to use a spare electronic timer which proved very helpful; when Terri’s supervisor heard the timer ring and didn’t see Terri up from her desk soon after, she was great at encouraging Terri to take her break.

Having the onsite physiotherapist engage with Terri and her manager was integral to this administrative control being an effective risk management strategy.

Through close monitoring and ongoing physiotherapy treatment onsite, Terri did not require a specific suitable duties plan or reduced working hours following this initial intervention with her manager. After three more physiotherapy sessions and the implementation of Terri’s work break routine, her symptoms resolved. Both Terri and her manager were very pleased with this outcome!

To summarise the end results of Terri’s injury case:

  • All intervention was provided as part of the onsite physiotherapy service so a potential Workers Compensation claim was avoided resulting in:
    • No LTI or MTI
    • No direct workers compensation costs or indirect impact on WC premium
  • The ergonomic assessment and involvement of the worker’s supervisor ensured optimal injury prevention strategies were implemented. The result of this early intervention included:
    • Reduced likelihood this injury will reoccur
    • Reduced likelihood of other injuries developing due to the appropriate management of work flow and equipment risk factors