Working as an onsite Physiotherapist, I would often compare my role to that of a sports team Physio, helping to keep players on the field. Oftentimes we refer to our patients as ‘occupational athletes’! Just like your team Physio, we become experts at knowing the best ways to manage injuries and get our ‘players’ back faster.
In my experience as an onsite Physio, there are some key principles for your workplace that are synonymous with those of a sporting team that I believe help workplaces manage their injuries effectively:
AN ONSITE PHYSIO IS A GREAT START!
When a player injures themselves on game day or at training, they have easy and immediate access to health professionals. Being able to manage acute injuries as they happen, and treat minor aches and sprains means that a trip to the Doctor’s office is avoided, and injured workers can be rehabilitated IN THE WORKPLACE.
Physiotherapists are experts in assessment and diagnosis of injuries, rehabilitation through exercise prescription, and are proficient with providing recommendations regarding appropriate work modifications to prevent further injury. At AXIS we go a step further with a broader skill set, including the ability to conduct manual handling training, risk assessments, worksite assessments as well as statistical analysis of injuries within the workplace in order to promote injury prevention as well as injury management.
GET YOUR PROCESSES IN PLACE
When an injury occurs on a football field or a worksite, it’s important that everyone knows their part to play. In the workplace, the worker needs to know their responsibility in reporting the incident to their supervisor. The supervisors need to know their role in providing the correct, early support to the worker – this may be arranging an appointment with your onsite Physio or determining whether a doctor’s opinion is required. Breakdowns in this process can result in poorly controlled injury management process and an increased risk of lost time injuries.
SUITABLE DUTIES FOR INJURED WORKERS
When a football player injures his hamstring, he’ll be advised by the medical staff to perform certain activities, such as light jogging or skills practice instead of his normal training or playing duties. In the work environment we call these suitable duties, but the goals are the same: allow the injured person to rehabilitate and recover whilst staying as active as possible.
Identifying suitable duties for injured workers is crucial for minimizing the number of lost time injuries in a workplace. Suitable duties enable a worker to recover, whilst still maintaining workplace relationships and their regular work routine. They remain a part of their working team and are likely to have a quicker recovery.
One key tip for managing workers performing suitable duties is to monitor these workers. Touching base regularly to ensure they are meeting their responsibilities in the injury management process (attending GP/Physio appointments etc..) and performing the suitable duties assigned to them. A regularly-allocated, brief meeting time might be appropriate to check on your worker’s progress.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY – THE ‘TOOLBOX CHAT’
Regular dialogue between members of a team can lead to better outcomes, and allow for the early identification of hazards and injuries within the workplace. Brief ‘toolbox chats’ between supervisors and workers prior to the commencement of shifts is a great way of opening up the communication channels. This is an opportunity for workers to be heard, but also to nominate any injuries they may be carrying into the shift, enabling management before any onsite aggravation can occur. It is also a great opportunity to promote workplace health and reinforce your safety principles.
CONDUCT MANUAL HANDLING TRAINING
Manual handling training is a useful tool in mitigating liability in the workplace and demonstrates a workplace’s duty of care. I believe another benefit is providing workers the opportunity to be heard and the feedback I have been able to provide employers off the back of these sessions has been invaluable. Let your team identify the tasks and work areas which may demand your attention before an injury occurs!