Early Intervention to Help Prevent Workplace Injuries

By Mark Makoui – VP, Risk Control August 02nd, 2023

Nic Patee, founder and CEO of injury prevention consultancy Work Right NW, knows early symptom intervention is critical to ergonomic injury prevention. However, the U.S. healthcare system and many companies are ill-equipped to facilitate early intervention. During Captive Resources’ July Risk Control Webinar, he shared three strategies group captive member-companies can use to incorporate early intervention into their operations.

When Patee — who has a doctorate in physical therapy — was practicing, he got a firsthand look at what he indicated is the most pivotal factor in ergonomic injuries: delays in medical interventions that would prevent minor pains from becoming occupational disabilities if employed earlier. Patee has built Work Right NW around an early symptom intervention approach. “We should be using the resources of people most skilled in dealing with musculoskeletal issues proactively when it is the 15-minute conversation about posture and ergonomics,” said Patee.

Acknowledging that “our healthcare system waits for people to break before they intervene,” he focused on what employers can control — their own Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) programs. He advocates using data analytics to track organizational injury prevention performance, starting at the first signs of potential injuries. The strategies he shared are designed to position the typical organization to achieve the ideal data-driven, early intervention state.

No. 1: Create a Team that Understands Each Other’s Language

Patee pointed out that each of an organization’s injury prevention stakeholders — Human Resources, Risk Management, EHS, and Finance — typically has different goals in this area. The first strategy in implementing a data-driven injury prevention process is getting these stakeholders to “speak the same language,” i.e., agree on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Also, they should agree on evaluation intervals (typically quarterly).

These KPIs should consist of understandable language on the front line and be prominently displayed so everyone can monitor progress in real-time. The team should agree to reporting intervals (typically weekly) if immediate adjustments are needed.

No. 2: Address People, Systems, and Culture

Workforce trends are causing injury prevention challenges for employers, Patee argued. Many workers change employers every few years, bringing different potential risks. As a result, employers need to address individual needs more than ever. Also, a labor pool that is unhealthy as a whole presents a risk to the typical organization.

To counter these trends and create a holistic, unified approach to prevention, employers must identify “holes in the system” that increase injuries and adjust their training and wellness programs to address overall workforce health. Programs should account for different job roles and micro-cultures. For example, a union shop in one part of the country might be more naturally aligned with management on safety goals. Employers should use perception surveys to identify attitudes toward approaches to injury prevention and steer those attitudes toward early symptom treatment.

No. 3: Use Healthcare Providers as Leaders on your Team

Healthcare providers are uniquely qualified to bridge communication gaps between organizational departments, Patee said. They can determine which healthcare information gets shared so employees’ privacy is maintained. Yet, they can proactively assess workforce needs for medical insurance plans and keep injuries from becoming trends — and Workers’ Compensation claims. “Involving them can be a game-changer,” Patee said.

About the Webinar

This presentation was part of Captive Resources’ Risk Control Webinar Series — regular installments of webinars to educate the group captive members we work with on topics like workplace safety, organizational leadership, and company performance. The thoughts and opinions expressed in these webinars are those of the presenters and do not necessarily reflect Captive Resources’ positions on any of the above topics.

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