By assisting employers with occupational health and safety compliance issues and a range of injury prevention strategies we are able to reduce the frequency and severity of workplace related injuries. Injury prevention initiatives include onsite physiotherapy, manual handling training, or office and industrial ergonomics, which incorporates a wide range of risk assessment and risk management processes. Injury prevention and injury management services have been proven to assist organisations of all sizes to reduce their Lost Time Injury rates, worker’s compensation claim numbers and costs and to improve the health, productivity and morale of employees.
At Aim Physiotherapy and Work Health Solutions, we aim to build strong partnerships with stakeholders at all levels. We endeavour to achieve the best possible outcomes for the worker’s compensation scheme authorities, employers and injured workers.
Occupational Health Physiotherapists work collaboratively with a range of people including employers, employees, other health professionals, engineers and designers to offer a range of measures aimed at reducing health and safety risks for people at work. Injury prevention initiatives can be grouped into the following categories:
- Primary prevention: protecting healthy people from developing disease or injury at work through health promotion, training and identification, assessment and control of potential hazards such as whole body vibration (rough rides), manual tasks, postural stresses and sedentary work. Successful injury prevention interventions follow ergonomic guidelines and risk management principles, including the hierarchy of controls.
- Secondary prevention: limiting long-term disability and preventing re-injury through early intervention and provision of suitable return to work duties (see Occupational Rehabilitation). This includes identification and management of risks such as physical, psychosocial and organisational factors.
- Tertiary prevention: helping people to manage complicated long-term health problems such as chronic pain and disability and, where appropriate, return to modified work.
Ergonomics is a whole of system approach, focusing on “interactions among humans and other elements of a system and design, to optimise human well-being and system performance.” (International Ergonomics Association Council, 2000). This approach includes the understanding, relevance and application of anthropometric data and ergonomic guides [eg. safe weights, forces and reach distances]. The ergonomics framework (adapted from Grey, S., Norris, B., & Wilson, J. (1987) includes the people, tasks, equipment, environment, work organisational and company culture. Practitioners of ergonomics and ergonomists contribute to the design and evaluation of tasks, jobs, products, environments and systems in order to make them compatible with the needs, abilities and limitations of people. Derived from the Greek ergon (work) and nomos (laws) to denote the science of work, ergonomics is a systems-oriented discipline which now extends across all aspects of human activity. Ergonomics helps harmonize things that interact with people in terms of people’s needs, abilities and limitations. It focusses on fitting tasks to people and people to tasks. Domains of specialisation within the discipline of ergonomics are broadly the following; Physical Ergonomics; Cognitive Ergonomics; Organisational Ergonomics.
A risk management approach is relevant to both injury prevention and injury management. It is hard to focus on improving safety with work performance if you don’t actually know what demands are involved with the work performed and what risks are associated with these demands. A detailed analysis of job and task demands, as presented in an organisations occupational/ job dictionary, allows adequate identification of risk exposures encompassing all relevant physical and psychosocial factors. Only then can effective risk management become a realistic and ongoing prospect for organisations. (Ref: AS/NZS ISO 31000 2009) Successful risk management culminates in the implementation of solutions or risk controls for identified problems, based on ergonomic principles, including job and task design or redesign.
The biopsychosocial model recognises that multiple factors influence health, safety, injury, disability, pain, function and return to work and recognises that injury prevention and rehabilitation initiatives must consider both physical and psychosocial job demands and hazards.
Safety culture relates to the values and beliefs of individuals and organisations. It results from a combination of organisational “cultures” which includes: (1) An informed culture; (2) a reporting culture (3) a just culture; (4) a learning culture. These aspects of safety culture require an understanding and application of job and task information. A key element of safety culture is the manner in which an organisation disseminates the correct information about risks and hazards. An occupational dictionary is the foundation for many injury prevention initiatives and the development of a positive organisational and safety culture. It helps an organization to focus on shared and individual responsibility, healthy work design and healthy choices and behaviours.
Ageing workers face specific occupational health and safety concerns. Strategies to minimise age-related problems and help older workers maintain their health and productivity, begin with young workers and continue throughout their working lives. The workplace affords the best community opportunity for health promotion and maintenance in working adults. [Ref: The ageing Australian workforce – APA Position Statement]. Physiotherapists are able to positively impact on the health outcomes and productivity of working Australians by working with individual clients of working age, workgroups and employers through a range of strategies and targeted interventions. An occupational dictionary is recognised as an important tool to help address issues relating to an ageing workforce. APA specialist and titled Occupational Health Physiotherapists have a high level of expertise and experience for assisting individuals and employers to identify potential health and safety problems and develop, implement and manage programs to maintain the work ability and health of ageing Australian workers.