June 2015 Newsletter:

Pre-Work Stretching Programs -- Worth the Investment?

The implementation of a stretching program has long been considered a means to improve the overall health of employees. There are many perceived benefits to implementing a stretching program which include:

  • Minimize discomfort and pain
  • Improve muscular performance
  • Increase muscular flexibility
  • Improve range of motion
  • Increase ability to perform work
  • Improve morale

Research in this area consistently supports these findings, however, stretching programs at worksites continue to be a source of debate as the perceived benefits have not always been found to actually reduce the frequency and/or severity of workplace injuries.

So why are companies still investing time and money on stretching programs for their workers?

The answer likely lies in the potential positives of stretching. The science of stretching has been proven to increase muscle flexibility and range of motion and has shown positive effects on blood circulation, posture and even stress relief. All of which, lead to an overall increase in muscular health and well-being. It stands to reason that an individual with these muscular traits should be better able to recover from injury. This alone could positively impact an employer�s ability to return people to work.

Stretching programs also have the potential to increase workplace morale and safety culture due to the fact that employees believe that the employer is committed to their comfort at work. These benefits, although they may not directly impact the bottom line, can have a financial impact as it may decrease turnover, reduce stress, and improve employee job satisfaction.

If you are considering moving forwards with a stretching program, it will require a lot of thought and strategy. Important factors such as the type of stretching program, time allowance, and employee commitment can have a large impact on the results a company can expect.

Consider the following when implementing a stretching program at your facility:

  • Obtain top level buy-in (i.e. financial support, commitment to the down-time required)
  • Obtain employee buy-in (i.e. make posters using employees, market the initiative)
  • Select and train stretching leaders
  • Decide on a static or PNF type stretching program
  • Ensure injury stats are tracked to build a business case to support your program

It�s important to remember that a stretching program is an administrative intervention which means that it is most effective when paired with engineering control(s). If your goal is to reduce injuries, a comprehensive approach is best. Start by making engineering changes to those work areas that have your highest risk and then pair it with the introduction of a stretching program to get the most �bang for your buck�!

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