Certainly Dr. Paul Trinkoff, a New York chiropractor, had an admirable idea when he called on a Chrysler Corporation parts warehouse that had a terrifyingly high rate of workplace injury among its 170 workers. In fact, the plant had the highest injury level in the company. Dr. Trinkoff wanted to help prevent injury, not just treat it. And he hoped the exposure would bring more business into his office.
“I’d like to teach your workers how to lift properly,” Dr. Trinkoff told the warehouse facility manager. Of course, the company was desperate for a solution to its expensive problem. In the first six months of 1995, for example, the facility lost 921 employee days due to job-related injuries.
What followed was a safe-lifting lecture given by Dr. Trinkoff to nearly all the employees. The company was “thrilled” with the lecture Dr. Trinkoff says, but the doctor wasn’t. “I wasn’t happy with it,” recalls Dr. Trinkoff. “There were too many people in the lecture hall.” He was deeply disappointed to sense??as a caring, professional healer–that his lecture alone would not turn the company’s injury rate around.
Soon after though, Dr. Trinkoff came upon the answer to his own situation, an injury prevention program designed for industry. The Backsafe Program, the enormously successful creation of a marketing guru and an esteemed chiropractor, came complete with expert training, sharply professional printed and video materials, and a cutting-edge marketing program.
Armed with his new tool, Dr. Trinkoff went off to the Chrysler plant and presented the Backsafe program–which combines the talent of program-trained chiropractors with lively videos, stretching exercises and an “obstacle course” of physical challenges custom-designed for each workplace–be it a tortilla-making factory in Los Angeles, an aircraft manufacturer’s laboratory in Seattle or a fire department garage in Ontario, Canada–to groups of 20 workers at a time.
The results were astounding. In the first six months of this year, the injury rate dropped to 209 lost days compared to last years’ 921 days. That’s a decrease of more than 75 percent! “We had a major, major problem,” says Brett Lowie, the plant manager, recalling the workers’ repetitive stress injuries and back injuries, but the investment in training wasn’t made lightly.
“It’s a pretty in-depth program,” says Lowie. “It takes quite a commitment from management, but I’m seeing results, and that’s what counts in business.” What of the plant’s distinction of most injuries in the corporation? We no longer hold that esteemed honor,” says Lowie. “And we’re happy to give it up.”
According to Dr. Trinkoff, other injury prevention programs fail because they don’t involve the workers enough, who need to be shown–and to practice–the proper ways to lift, bend, sit and stand. In other words, a dreary videotape shown once a year doesn’t cut it. And marketing is such a time and resource-consuming process for chiropractors, who tend to be healers first and public relations experts second.
This program was “exactly what we wanted,” says Dr. Trinkoff, noting that the Chrysler workers, as well as workers from other companies to whom he had presented the program, have sent their family members to him, significantly increasing his office business.
“It didn’t take anything to learn,” he continues. “It’s what we always wanted to do, we just didn’t have the organization. But if we could save even one employee from getting surgery (for injuries caused by improper movement), the company saves a whole lot of money.”
That was the thinking of Dennis Downing, a savvy business and marketing expert who is President of the California-based Future Industrial Technologies and the Backsafe Program, who is partners with Dr. Barry Carlin, a Los Angeles-based chiropractor. “If a company has to pay for back surgery, it will cost around $40,000,” says Downing. “That’s $40,000 from their profit. The company knows, if their profit margin is at a healthy 5%, it will have to bring in $800,000 in gross revenues to pay for a $40,000 back surgery. Believe me, the companies want help.”
Of course, the hottest injury topic these days in business is repetitive stress injuries. The possibility of preventing these is a big reason companies such as Chrysler, Boeing, UPS and Xerox have welcomed this program’s consultants into their plants with open arms.
“The companies know that Backsafe consultants can help reduce their medical costs. Did you know that according to Blue Cross of California, an average Carpel Tunnel surgery costs the company about $29,000?” said Downing. “But that’s not all. For every dollar the company spends on medical costs, they spend 3 to 5 times in indirect costs such as re-hiring, retraining, down-time and more.”
Trying to find a way out of injury-related costs has been a passion for plant managers and chiropractors alike. “Many chronic conditions are caused by improper habits,” says Dr. Scott Donkin, a Lincoln, Nebraska-based chiropractor who wrote the popular book, Sitting on the Job. “There’s a right way to move and lift things,” Dr. Donkin says, “but it seems to have missed our education process.” And even when a problem is “corrected” with surgery, the bad habits that caused it persist. Indeed, most of the operations need to be repeated within 18 months, Donkin explains. “And this costs companies big, big money.”
Most objectionable for Dr. Donkin, as a concerned healer, is after surgery, “People were put right back into the conditions that caused the injury. That’s very unsettling for me to have that happen.” All that changed when Dr. Donkin became associated with this program. Now he was able to show workers not only exactly how to move their bodies to prevent stress, but he allowed them to practice it immediately with fellow workers.
“There’s excitement that builds within the group,” Dr. Donkin says. This program is the “best injury prevention program I’m aware of. The support and accountability are incredible.” Downing is not surprised that chiropractors, who he respects tremendously, are drawn to this program and are anxious to present it to industry.
“Chiropractors have the training and treatment technology that works which can eliminate the need for extensive and life-changing surgeries,” Downing says. “The trouble with many chiropractors is that they have a marketing problem. They do not know how to reach industry.”
Many chiropractors use marketing approaches like doing spinal screenings at trade shows, fairs and malls. But when they fold up their booth at the end of the day, it’s over. Working with industry, you have a long-term relationship and are getting new patients all the time, once credibility is established with the company management.”
Dr. Glenda Rosen, a chiropractor in Canada says her association in injury prevention has energized her business as well as her spirit. “You’re not bored,” Dr. Rosen says of presenting the program to among others, local firefighters. At the station, she showed them–and encouraged them–to practice the safe way to lift hoses, as well as climb on and off the truck. For her, this beats 10 hours a day, six days a week in her office. “At some point,” she says, “these four wall get small.”
From a financial standpoint, the injury prevention program has brought Dr. Rosen more clients. “I’m the expert so they come to see me in my office,” Dr. Rosen says. “They started sending their wives and kids to me.”
In fact, Dr. Rosen became so enamored with the injury prevention program that she helped translate the material into French so that all Canada could benefit. “I love it,” Dr. Rosen enthuses. “What makes this great is that I am able to take what I learned in school and apply it practically in a different form–and injury rates go down. That is very gratifying.”
Dennis Downing is gratified as well. “We work with the chiropractors who align with our philosophy to improve conditions at work and in life. Our program is customized for each industry and its unique kinetic learning module makes the program incredibly successful. Each consultant is trained thoroughly not only in our on-site procedures, but in vital marketing skills. We support each of the consultants with further free training, sales assistance, materials and quality control.”
Dr. Kevin Miller, a chiropractor in Massachusetts says he received, “…Great training. My eyes have really been opened.” In the past, Dr. Miller had a desire to help prevent workplace injury, but the program he presented wasn’t good enough. “It lacked the most important aspect –it didn’t address body movement. This program’s proactive approach to injury is new.”
Dr. Miller has had ample opportunity to work with industry employees, including 60 UPS workers in Watertown, Mass. “They’re hard enough to get motivated,” Dr. Miller says of the burly drivers and package movers. But the injury prevention training was well-received. “The critiques were wonderful,” Dr. Miller recalls. “It was a great morale booster. They’re doing the stretches they learn because it makes them feel good. After other employees found out how fun it was and how good it felt, they were signing up fast.”
Certainly, thousand of workers at the Boeing Company in Seattle agree. “The feedback from the employees is always positive,” says Ed Bahl, the company’s fabrication division safety administrator. “They enjoy the stretching routine and the obstacle course.” More importantly, though, is the division’s 41% decrease in back injuries as a result of the program. “We are obviously very pleased with these results,” Bahl says.
For the scores of chiropractors who have increased their business and effectiveness with injury prevention programs such as Backsafe, the future looks bright. “We truly believe that the partnership between business and injury prevention consultants will create an injury-free workplace, a happier workforce and a more productive country,” Downing proclaims. “We are currently training all the flight attendants for a major, international airlines,” he says.
According to Downing, “…Our approach is very honest. We go in with the integrity and intention to help the company and we do help…We reduce their on-the-job injuries and claims dramatically and the companies exchange for this financially.”
“Because of this demand, I am now conducting regular phone conference briefings to interested chiropractors to educate them on the Backsafe Program,” Downing says. “Anyone interested can call and talk to me at 1-800-775-2225.”
Backsafe is improving conditions not only for the companies and corporations, but for the chiropractors as well.” “Gillian Christie is President of Christie Communications, Santa Barbara, California, specializing in the successes of alternative health activities.