Tom Rothery, OTR, CFCE
Team Lead – Injury Elimination Specialist
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 per week for direct workers' compensation 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 workman’s compensation costs. We at OccuCare 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 at OccuCare provide high-level services geared towards reducing and eliminating these direct and indirect medical costs for a multitude of businesses. OccuCare provides early intervention services on-site at various companies 1-3x/week for 4 hours per day. 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, we perform a musculoskeletal evaluation for the specific injured body part or parts. Based on our advanced education and clinical skill sets as physical and occupational therapists, we can 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.
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 with the job tasks.
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.
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 on-site 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.
OccuCare is an industry leader in providing companies with comprehensive injury prevention programs. This includes: On-Site Early Intervention, Post Offer Employment Testing (POETs), Job Demands Analysis, Stretching Programs, Ergonomics, and Wellness Programs. Our highly trained clinicians have over 50 years of combined experience in treating workers and providing companies with comprehensive injury prevention programs that reduce your workers' compensation claims costs. Contact OccuCare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-833-858-9946 to learn more about how we can help your company eliminate injuries.