Safe work culture starts at the top

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Lost time injury (LTI) is a major productivity sucker for managers. But there are ways to mitigate the risk – and it’s not as time consuming and expensive as you may think.

Injury prevention is no longer the catch-cry of human resource departments. More and more, forward-thinking companies are implementing safe-worker organisational strategies that protect staff on a very personal level.

Brisbane-based physiotherapist Paul Trevethan has worked with elite athletes for more than 15 years and is now applying the science to the workforce. With white- and blue-collar workers piling into his practice, Body Leadership Australia, he’s passionate about changing perceptions on injury management. What’s more, he says it is possible to change WH&S culture, it just has to start at the top.

“A safe workplace starts with a manager taking responsibility at a personal level; understanding how the body behaves and identifying potential risk factors,” he says.

“From there, they can empower staff to notice their own tensions and suggest how to nip problems in the bud before they escalate.”

It’s all part of his philosophy of ‘responsibility, empowerment and prevention’.

“Injury occurs in two ways. You’ve got acute injuries, which are high-impact and force-driven accidents. For example, a worker on a meat processing floor might slip on blood or water and sprain his ankle,” Paul says.

“Acute injuries get all the attention, so that’s what we often association with LTI management. But this isn’t necessarily what we’re seeing on the professional treatment side of things.”

Instead, it’s more often the repetitive stress injuries that lead to extended time off work.

“Whether you’re in a relatively safe office job, or working in a high-risk environment, you can end up with a serious injury if you don’t know how the body is meant to work,” he says.

“We work closely with Queensland energy companies whose electrical workers lift 5m-long portable earthing devices all day and end up developing shoulder injuries. We also see hospitality workers who have lifted heavy trays at an awkward angle and have developed carpal tunnel.”

Construction workers, scaffolders and heavy machinery drivers also frequently present with shoulder and lower back issues, according to Paul, along with transport workers who come in with disk injuries and degenerative strains from sitting for long periods of time.

There are plenty of statistics to back this up. Safe Work Australia estimates around 40 per cent of workers’ compensation claims relate to body stress, while only 15 per cent relate to falls, trips and slips.

“The key is to look at your processes and, if you can, make it easier for the body,” Paul says.

“A smart employer will combine good design, i.e. one that encourages good posture, with ways of managing tightness or tiredness.

“A lot of companies have these strategies and techniques in place, but it’s got to be normalised from the top down. What we don’t see is a CEO doing her dynamic warm-up exercises at the start of the day, or a managing director releasing his muscles using a trigger point ball on a wall.”

This is the LTI strategy of the future, Paul says: a top-down approach where warm-ups are included as protocol and cool-downs are the norm. Essentially, we’ll all start behaving more like elite athletes.

Injuries aren’t just ‘a part of the job’; risk can be mitigated with the right WH&S strategy. Talk to the work hire experts at Labour Solutions Australia to find out how you can work smarter and safer. 

 

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Labour Solutions Australia Pty Ltd specialises in temporary, permanent and outsourced workforce solutions with a strong focus on Food Processing, Civil and Building Construction, Mining and Engineering, Transport and Logistics, Manufacturing and Agribusiness staffing needs.

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