The global pandemic wreaked havoc on countless US companies impacting millions of US workers with furloughs, shutdowns, and layoffs. Fortunately, in recent weeks and months, the US economy has begun to show signs of life with many companies reopening and hiring employees.
One such industry which has seen a trend of increased hiring is the utility trade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 310,000 jobs have been added to the utility sector in the past three months well outpacing new employment opportunities in other industries.
With any new hires, companies are investing time and money in preparing those employees for the job. As utility companies expand their hiring practices and invest in new employees, it is prudent for organizations to evaluate safety practices and protocols to keep those new and existing employees safe.
The Most Common Utility Workplace Injury
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Annual Report, the most common form of injury in the energy industry is musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) with those injuries making up 40.8%. This is more than 10% higher than the average number of MSDs across all other industries. This data suggests that workers within the utility industry are experiencing significantly more back, shoulder, and knee discomfort than workers in other work environments.
With more discomfort comes more time off due to injury. The Department of Labor estimates that the average days away for each MSD is 13. Those 13 days can have a huge impact on a company’s operations. And that is just one worker suffering from an MSD.
Preventing MSD Injuries in the Utility Sector
Given the prevalence and time away associated with MSDs, it is no wonder many health and safety professionals are looking for new ways to reduce the risk of these types of discomforts. One popular injury prevention solution that has shown results in reducing MSD injury frequency and severity is the establishment of warm-up and strengthening programs.
While a relatively new concept, research suggests that when properly developed, implemented, and managed warm-up and strengthening programs help protect workers by mitigating risks that cannot be addressed with ergonomic solutions.
A Utility Warm-Up and Strengthening
Make no mistake, to experience the greatest MSD risk reduction, warm-up and strengthening programs should be implemented to complement a workplace ergonomics program. If a company simply gathers up employees to have them do a few pre-shift stretches, the organization is unlikely to see any reduction in MSDs.
When rolled out as part of a comprehensive MSD injury prevention plan, warm-up and strengthening programs focuses on task-specific pre-shift stretches and strengthening exercises that help prepare the body for the physical requirements of the workday.
If you’ve ever participated in any type of sport, it makes sense to stretch and warm-up before completing the strenuous activity. However, warming up before a game is only a piece of preparing to play a sport. There is practice where form is reviewed, there is weight training where muscles are appropriately pushed, there is gear-fitting to ensure proper protection, just to name a few. All of this is done to ensure an athlete can not only complete the sport without injury but also maximize their performance.
With a warm-up and strengthening program, workers are taken through the same preparation. But instead of preparing for a sport, the stretches, strengthening activities, and gear-fitting are done to the physical requirements of their job demands.
Building a Custom Warm-Up and Strengthening Program
The key to experiencing the greatest MSD risk reduction within your organization is to ensure your warm-up and strengthening are customized to the unique physical demands of your job tasks and the unique needs of your workforce.
To get started on building your warm-up and strengthening program, download our free handout Six Essential Considerations to Create a Successful Utility Warm-Up and Strengthening Program. If you’d like to speak with a Briotix Health representative about how our injury prevention experts can design a custom program for your organization, contact us today.