What is workplace health?
Workplace health is the Flex Out field of Occupational Health Physiotherapy that specialises in the interaction between anatomy, physiology, pathology, function and the workplace.
The aim is to create a healthier workforce and to deliver the specific benefits that come with it. It incorporates:
- Preventative strategies: Protecting healthy people from developing injuries at work.
- Rehabilitative services: Limiting long-term disability and preventing re-injury through early intervention and the provision of suitable return to work duties.
Benefits of occupational health physiotherapy services
- Increased control over return to work procedures.
- Reduced lost time injuries.
- Minimise losses in productivity by maintaining employees at work.
- Minimise worker’s compensation claims and premium costs.
- Increased employee morale.
- Open lines of communication between all key stakeholders.
- Increased control over costs associated with workplace injuries.
Flex Out Physiotherapy has experience providing occupational health physiotherapy services for both large and small businesses in a range of diverse industries including construction, manufacturing, production, office environments, warehousing and distribution.
- Manual handling and safe work training and presentations
- Pre-employment musculoskeletal assessments
- Early intervention programs including triage and injury management programs
- Workplace health consulting
- Workstation ergonomic assessments
- Wellness programs
Manual handling training is compulsory training which involves educating staff with regards to safe handling practices in the workplace, there are also many other advantages of providing the training. These include:
- Improving employee skills and job efficiency;
- Enhancing your company’s work safety profile which may in turn increase staff retention and morale;
- Providing employee’s, a platform to identify potential areas of concern or risk in the work place and hypothesis solutions to these problems;
- Identifying unknown employees who are at an increased risk of injury due to inappropriate task suitability or employee capacity.
Whilst manual handling training is compulsive annually in many workplaces (in accordance with Occupational Health and Safety legislation) it is also suggested the training should occur with any new staff and with the implementation of new work stations, equipment or safety procedures.
Pre-employment assessments can provide employers with objective information concerning a potential employee’s capacity to meet specific job requirements. Pre-employment assessments can minimise the risk of injury of workers by assessing the potential employee’s job suitability in a controlled environment. Pre-employment testing routinely tests factors such as posture, manual handling, joint stability/irritability and lifting ability. However, testing can also be individualised to ensure results are as specific and meaningful as possible for your business.By effectively assessing prospective employees, employers are able to:
- Minimise risk of injury, which in turn, may reduce insurance premiums associated with these claims;
- Save time and money in training by initially selecting the most appropriate employees;
- Identify if long term employees may benefit from a change in work duties to best suit their potential changing work capacity.
- Research demonstrates early intervention for injured or ill workers improves health, social and financial outcomes by promoting recovery and preventing long term disability and work loss. Early intervention is a process which involves identification and early action in response to warning signs. Occupational physiotherapists can assist with the identification of hazards and personnel at risk and to provide early intervention when warning signs are identified.
Having a consultant visit your workplace is a valuable intervention to assist in preventing injury and optimising return to work. On site consulting can involve:
- Analysis of injury trends: Identifying if there are correlations between your employees’ injuries and the practices/systems of your workplace;
- Risk assessments and control recommendations: If a risk (hazard) has been identified, best practice is to assess the likelihood of injury occurring and the severity of the consequences of that injury. Through this evaluation, occupational health physiotherapists can assess which control measures need to be put in place to minimise the occurrence or severity of this identified risk. Assessing workplace risks encompasses the following variables:
- The frequency and duration of risk exposure;
- The age, skills and fitness of employees exposed to the risk;
- The type of hazard.
If the hazard in question is deemed serious enough to require intervention, onsite consultants are able to make control recommendations to minimise the risk of injury to your employees.
- Job task analysis (JTA): An assessment that can be conducted on site to comprehensively assess the demands and specific skills required to complete tasks within the workplace. JTA’s are useful for assigning suitable work duties to injured workers returning to work and also for matching prospective employees to specific work duties when hiring.
Poor ergonomics and posture has been identified as a significant factor in musculoskeletal disorders and poor productivity in office dominated workplaces. If employees are sitting at a workstation for 38-hours a week, it is imperative that the workstation is set up specifically to match that individual. If an employee is forced to work at a station which is not suited to them, the ill effects of the work station can manifest over time into ongoing musculoskeletal pain. All of our ergonomic assessments are conducted by experienced occupational physiotherapists using a comprehensive analysis in order to identify interventions to optimise the workstation. This includes:
- Education and intervention regarding sitting posture, keyboard and mouse use, screen positioning;
- Suggesting and sourcing assistive equipment;
- Assessing environmental factors such as noise and lighting;
- Provision of routine exercises to minimise the effects of prolonged desk work.
Wellness programs are becoming increasingly recognised as an important contributor to optimising workplace health. The primary aim of wellness programs in workplaces is to assist employees to optimise their health. In addition to the physical, emotional and mental benefits wellness programs bring to employees, research has demonstrated the financial benefits of employing a healthy workforce. For example, research has suggested that non-smokers are more productive and take less sick leave then their smoking co-workers.
Benefits of wellness programs include:
- Increased workplace morale;
- Create an increased sense of care in the workplace;
- Increased job satisfaction;
- Improved mental and physical health of employees;
- Improved employee focus at work.
As a consequence of the above benefits, the business benefits financially through lower rates of absenteeism due to a decrease in sick and injury leave. Research also demonstrates that healthy workers have shorter recovery times following a workplace injury. Long-term benefits of wellness programs include creating a positive workplace environment for employees and reducing overall staff turnover. Our consultants are able to assist in the creation and development of your organisations’ wellness program through the following:
- Health Assessments: By performing health assessments on your staff we are able to identify the common health deficiencies amongst your staff. By effectively identifying these specific areas, interventions can be put in place to improve the health of your staff.
- Health Coaching: Once health areas of concern are identified amongst your staff population, we are able to commence health coaching. Health coaching can take many forms; from one on one sessions with particular staff to larger health seminars that involve large groups.
- Triage: An advantage of having onsite physiotherapy consultants is that when employees report injury or discomfort they can have access to an onsite triage service. Having a triage service enables employees’ access to an experienced physiotherapist who can likely diagnose the injury or disorder and can immediately treat or refer the employee to the appropriate medical sources which will optimise their care. This process can not only reduce time lost to injury in your workplace but also increase the sense of employees feeling cared for by the business. In some examples, the on-site consulting physiotherapist can also be the primary physiotherapist for the duration of your employees’ injury which can also greatly assist the return to work process.
- Injury management
- Development and monitoring of return-to-work and suitable duties plans
- On-site workplace assessments
- Work specific conditioning programs
- Functional capacity evaluations
- Case conferences (liaising between stakeholders)
Whilst our goal is to prevent injuries before they happen in the workplace, the reality is whilst we can effectively minimise the risk and severity of injuries we cannot prevent them occurring altogether. Flex Out Physiotherapy has a long history of managing work places injuries. As outlined in the points above, the process from initial diagnosis to return to work on full duties can be greatly enhanced by having an on-site consulting therapist.
With specific knowledge and expertise in the management of musculoskeletal injury, occupational physiotherapists are well placed to develop and monitor return to work and suitable duties plans. All too often workers are given work capacity guidelines which are impractical in their specific workplace and consequently they experience a delay in effectively returning to work.
To assist with effective injury management and develop specific return to work plans, it may be beneficial for our physiotherapist to conduct an on-site workplace assessment, in order to gain a deeper understanding of the demands of the injured workers job and work environment.
If an injured worker has been removed from their normal work duties for an extended period of time, it may be of benefit for them to undergo a work conditioning program in order to prepare themselves physically and mentally for a return to work and their normal duties. Our physiotherapy and exercise physiology team can design effective work conditioning programs tailored to the individual.
Similar to pre-employment assessments, functional capacity evaluations can be completed to gain objective information concerning the capacity of a worker returning from injury, to meet specific job requirements.
Flex Out believe to optimise the rehabilitation and return to work process, it is imperative for all involved parties (GP, physiotherapist, case manager, employer, employee) to effectively communicate. Ineffective communication can often lead to avoidable and prolonged injury leave for injured employees and a more stressful transition back into the workforce. At Flex Out Physiotherapy, we are dedicated to facilitate communication between these parties to ensure a quick rehabilitation and seamless transition back to work.
Frequently asked questions
Are occupational health physiotherapy services available on-site?
On-site programs are available.