Today, more than ever, many companies are dealing with rising workers’ compensation costs, employee turnover and shrinking profit margins. This is forcing many corporations to search for new and innovative ways to control costs, motivate employees, expand services and help local industries stay competitive.
Currently more than 70% of workplace injuries are neuromusculoskeletal in nature, and it has been suggested that low back injuries alone cost industry 80 billion dollars annually. Doctors of Chiropractic possess the knowledge and skill needed to help corporate America turn this loss into profit. This fact alone should motivate DCs to educate CEOs and human resource personnel on the benefits of chiropractic.
Beyond having the skills to return injured workers to health, chiropractors have the ability to prevent costly injuries in the first place. Successful companies understand that early detection and prevention of injuries not only saves needless suffering, but saves money as well. With a pro-active approach to health and wellness, DCs can help these companies achieve their goals.
During the last three and a half years, this author has invested more than 5,000 hours working within industry. This first-hand experience has brought an eyewitness account of the impact chiropractors can have on both a company and its employees.
The First Pilot Program
In 1996, Dr. Daniel Neubauer and the author began working with a local manufacturing facility to improve the ergonomic set-up of their workstations. This working relationship was the result of a contact Dr. Neubauer made with a human resource manager following one of his local health seminars.
After evaluating the facility, Dr. Neubauer recommended a complete on-site health and wellness program and the idea was met with optimism. Soon after, a pilot program was initiated that included three components: ergonomic workstation evaluations, educational and motivational seminars and on-site chiropractic care. This was a volunteer program that involved fifty employees.
The initial goals were to reduce employee complaints of headache and neck pain, improve company morale and prevent workplace injuries. Four months into the program, our success was beyond expectations and the program was expanded to include another fifty volunteers.
With one hundred participants, we kept our focus on the true principles of chiropractic: proper mechanics and structure will lead to proper function. It was understood that educating the employees and management on this principle was going to be the key to long-term success.
The Program’s Results
With reported headaches dropping from 3.3 per week to .5 per week among the first fifty participants, it was like opening the flood gates when the next group of volunteers were requested. During the course of the first year, we were able to reduce absenteeism by 283 hours and keep workers’ compensation claims to an all-time low.
In addition, the program helped the company achieve an amazingly low MOD factor. This is the measure insurance companies use to determine insurance premiums. With the company’s industry average being 1.0 and a good MOD factor being .75, they were able to get down to .59.
The program now flourishes and includes all employees who wish to participate. We continue to be supported by management and feel the program’s success is due to the fact that everyone involved is winning. The employees have access to convenient on-site health care, the company has healthier and more productive employees and we have the opportunity to share chiropractic with a group of 500 people three times a week. In addition, chiropractic itself benefits because these employees have family and friends that they, in turn, refer to chiropractors.
Anatomy of the Health and Wellness Program
A chiropractic occupational health consultant should implement the following necessary steps to successfully work with industry.
First, acquire the education and resources to provide services to industry. This will range from working towards a diplomate in chiropractic occupational health to preparing health seminars.
Second, understand that each company has specific needs they have to address.
Third, realize that the company will have to see a return on their investment.
A closer look at our program shows how to accomplish the above steps by implementing three components.
A healthy worker at a poorly designed workstation will eventually break down and succumb to injury. Therefore, the workstation needs to be arranged so that minimal contact, physical and mental stress is required. Correct workstation ergonomics reduces the chances of injury and allows the body to function at an optimal performance level. In our program, walk-through evaluations are performed on a weekly basis to improve workstation set-up.
Additional training to provide information on ergonomic set-up may be necessary, but it is worth the investment. Remember, proper ergonomics will not only lead to reducing worker injuries, but will also improve worker productivity. These are attractive goals for industry.
Educational and Motivational Seminars
The empowerment of education is essential if compliance is to be achieved. The company’s workers need to understand how they can benefit from an altered workstation, chiropractic care or lifestyle changes.
Motivating employees can have an enormous impact on their lives. Our seminars have motivated employees to lose weight, quit smoking and start exercising. One program participant even began running as a result of our seminars and completed her first marathon in 1997.
All of these achievements not only benefit the health of the employees, but the health of the company as well. It was exciting for the company’s human resource manager to see how improving employee attitudes improved company morale.
On-site Chiropractic Care
Chiropractors understand the enormous benefits of a healthy spine. As with improper ergonomics, suboptimal health will result in workplace injuries. It is amazing to find out many times that a new patient has been suffering from a condition for many months or years. In turn, after adjusting our patients, they are sometimes upset with themselves for not visiting us sooner.
Convenient on-site health care is just as important as good health care. Treating conditions in the early stages of injury has provided tremendous success for our program. Employees now realize the importance of chiropractic care and how it can benefit them and their families.
Along with convenience, there is a need to be able to address industry’s major injuries and illnesses in a cost efficient manner. With sprain/strain injuries accounting for the majority of workplace injuries, chiropractic is a perfect fit. Numerous studies have shown chiropractic to be beneficial and cost effective in dealing with neuromusculoskeletal injuries.
One wonderful aspect of working within occupational health is the fact that we already have good contacts. Nearly every one of our patients works for a company that can benefit from chiropractic services. Providing ergonomic consultations, educational and motivational seminars and on-site chiropractic care may not be for everyone; however, industry can certainly benefit from many additional services chiropractors can provide. The field of chiropractic occupational health can bring great opportunities both financially and professionally. Take advantage of the opportunity to pursue occupational health.