The impact of sending workers who sustain work-related injuries to the hospitals and local occupational health clinics can drive up direct and indirect medical costs for companies over several years. According to OSHA, it has been estimated that employers pay almost $1 billion/week for direct workers' comp costs alone. Below is a list of potential costs.
Direct medical costs:
- Workers’ compensation payments
- Medical expenses
- Legal services
Indirect medical costs:
- Lost work time
- Loss in productivity
- Training and replacing workers
- Fixing equipment
- Lower employee morale
These have a huge impact on the company’s work comp costs. We at OccuPro hear from more and more businesses that have been frustrated with the current medical model with respect to their approach in managing work-related injuries.
We have designed a high-level OSHA first aid injury prevention documentation system we are seeing being implemented all across the United States. Employers and medical practices are implementing OSHA based first aid injury prevention programs with an Occupational Health Therapist model. This type of service involves hands-on treatment within OSHA first aid guidelines to decrease the severity of musculoskeletal incidents and ensure proper and healthy resolutions to employee’s early aches or symptoms. When an employee is seen for the first time, this program involves a musculoskeletal evaluation for the specific injured body part or parts. Based on Occupational Health Therapists advanced education and clinical skill sets as physical and occupational therapists, these professionals determine if the injury can be treated on site within the OSHA first aide guidelines, or if the injury is more severe and requires a referral to a health care provider. For employees who report work-related injuries, the type of service provided is very specific and is administered within the OSHA first aid guidelines.
OSHA first aid service provided to the employee includes:
- Administering hot/cold packs
- Kinesio tape
- Applying non-rigid supports
- Elastic bandages
- Company approved pre-shift stretches
I recently provided OSHA first aid services at a manufacturing company for an employee named Lisa. Lisa reported injuring her right elbow a couple of weeks ago when lifting boxes from an assembly line. She complained of discomfort along the right lateral aspect of the elbow and had point tenderness along the lateral epicondyle. A thorough musculoskeletal evaluation was performed which included testing her range of motion and strength of the shoulder distal to the elbow. Based on the evaluation and the overall symptoms, it was determined that this incident was appropriate for OSHA first aid services. This information was reported to the employer who agreed with the recommended plan. The employer was also notified of the types of positioning and movement patterns of the right upper extremity that would potentially exacerbate symptoms. This was done to provide information to the employer, so they can manage the case, and provide options for moving the worker to a different job, so the symptoms would not increase.
OSHA first aid consisted of massage along the forearm and lateral elbow to improve blood flow to the area and to decrease muscle tightness along the common extensor tendons. Kinesio tape was applied to decrease tension on the soft tissues along the extensor carpi radialis brevis, and along the lateral epicondyle. Education was provided on company approved pre-shift stretches for active forearm extensors and passive stretch for the forearm/wrist. These services were then documented in OccuPro’s Injury Prevention Software and the client was scheduled for her next visit within this system. The system includes a scheduling system where the client receives emails and text messages about her future on-site injury prevention visits.
After only 3 weeks of OSHA first aid services, Lisa reported significant improvements! However, she recently reported an increase in discomfort along the lateral elbow when performing some of her job duties. I decided during that session to accompany the employee to her workstation to observe the work tasks she was performing and determine how to reduce and eliminate her most recent complaints regarding her job duties. After the observation, we were able to educate her on reasons she was experiencing the right lateral elbow pain and modify her approach as to right upper extremity reaching and grasping to avoid exacerbating her discomfort. At completion of the session, I determined that a non-rigid counterforce brace would be beneficial to reduce the forces over the common extensor tendon muscles.
Lisa reported no discomfort along the right lateral elbow after only 5 weeks of OSHA first aid sessions. We provided a total of 8 first aid sessions during this time frame. When we decided to close her case, Lisa reported being very pleased with the services and recommendations. She also commented on the convenience and ease of her sessions, and really appreciated that the company employed our services. The Health and Safety Manager was ecstatic to hear that the case had been closed, and that Lisa was back to her pre-incident level. This was documented in the Injury Prevention Software since the system sends our satisfaction surveys after an employee finishes their OSHA first aid sessions.
The benefit of having physical and occupational therapists on site at companies will help reduce most of these direct and indirect costs for the employer. The cost of having therapists on site is considerably less compared to sending employees to their local medical clinics. Working closely with the health and safety managers, onsite nurses, and therapists provides a multidisciplinary team that can effectively manage work-related injuries such as the above scenario and help reduce unnecessary medical costs which can negatively affect the company’s insurance premiums in the years ahead.
Tom Rothery, OTR, CFCE, Team Lead – Injury Elimination Specialist for OccuPro has over 15 years of knowledge and expertise in treating work-related and non-work-related injuries for various businesses. He has provided OSHA first aid services on-site at several companies throughout the Midwest and has prevented a variety of musculoskeletal injuries from becoming OSHA recordable. Tom has trained and educated numerous physical and occupational therapists to provide this same high-level service with positive outcomes. He continues to lead OccuPro in the development of their Injury Prevention Software and was the primary tester of this software over the last year of its development.