November Newsletter:

Return to Work – A Springboard for Change!

This article was featured in our November 2015 email newsletter. Click here to subscribe to receive future newsletters directly to your inbox.

Between 2008 and 2013, lost time claims due to workplace injuries in Ontario sharply declined from roughly 62,000 to 41,500, representative of a 33% decrease, according to a Toronto Sun report based on WSIB statistics. Naturally such a reduction in injury rates among workers is a workplace success story; however, we must not lose sight of the fact that there were still 41,500 people who were still experiencing workplace injuries.

Consider a Case Study

Using a hypothetical case study, let’s assume we are assessing the first person on an assembly line.  This particular job is performed by 3 workers on 3 separate shifts each day. The workers are required to twist and bend forward in order to reach into an oversized bin and pull out each individual part to be placed on a conveyor. Now let’s also consider that in the past 6 months, 2 of these 3 employees have lost time due to lower back injuries, which they acquired as a result of their job demands and work methods. Granted they both returned to work following time off, but the potential problem lies in although they were accommodated upon their return to work as part of the RTW process, they are now back to regular duties performing the same job that initially caused their injury. The only thing that changed is that they were re-educated on how to lift safely.  

A Recipe for Disaster

When presented with a scenario such as this, we need to consider ways to use this as a spring board for ergonomic change in the workplace.  In the case study, no engineering change occurred during the process, meaning that the risk of injury is still present at the job and the company has a more vulnerable population working at that position (they may be at greater risk of re-injury!). 

Where to start?

It is important to see these situations, and more specifically these injuries, as opportunities to evoke job change and create a healthier environment for ALL workers, not just those with an injury. Start by evaluating the ergonomic hazards that are present in the job (e.g. force, awkward postures, static postures, repetition). Consider getting your employees and other key stakeholders involved in a steering committee or ergonomic team and encourage them to generate ideas and opportunities for improvement.  Be sure to consider things that are ‘low hanging fruit’ as well as things that could be considered larger capital projects.  Determine your budget and then determine what you can accomplish now and what must wait; just remember that money spent now should mean less money spent on WSIB claims and fees in the future!

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