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work hardening

Work Injury Rehabilitation Program: Preparing You For A Safe, Sustained Re-Entry Into the Workforce.

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Work Hardening

Our PT & Me physical therapists are dedicated to assisting the injured worker return to their job safely, with a decreased risk for re-injury. A work hardening program is a highly structured, goal oriented treatment program that improves work related functional abilities, with a skilled approach of graded exercise, activities, and education.

CRITICAL COMPONENTS OF OUR WORK HARDENING PROGRAM

  • Progressive program attended 4-8 hours / day.
  • Excellent patient to therapist ratio with constant supervision by a licensed OT or/and PT.
  • Completion of a musculoskeletal evaluation to identify deficit areas that affect safe performance of essential job functions, and to form the basis of the treatment approach.
  • An exercise program tailored towards improving the flexibility, strength, and endurance required for a successful return to work. At completion of the program, a comprehensive home exercise program will be provided to ensure long term success.
  • Assist the work hardening participant resume appropriate work behaviors including attendance, punctuality, and response to supervision.
  • Performance of graded job simulation activities, so that the participants gain confidence in their ability to return to work, and so they can apply their body mechanics training in a meaningful way.
  • Comprehensive patient education on pacing, stress management, back care, and injury prevention as indicated.
  • Upon Request a physical capacity / work capacity evaluation will be performed at the completion of the work hardening program to objectify the ability of the participant to return to work.

Safe Lifting Practices for Back Injury Prevention

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Whether at home or at work safe lifting practices can keep your back healthy and safe. Before lifting heavy objects decide how you will lift carry & place the item before you pick it up. Test the weight of the load by moving or tipping it. Figure out if you can break the load down by placing the contents of large containers into a number of smaller ones before moving them. Is the path clear? What is the weight of the load? How much stress will be placed upon your back? Is there traffic, a tripping hazard, a doorway to go through, or a stairway to go up or down? Avoid carrying an object that requires two hands to hold, either up or especially down a flight of stairs. Use the elevator. Plan a rest stop, if needed. Knowing what you’re doing and where you’re going will prevent you from making awkward movements while holding something heavy. Clear a path, and if lifting something with another person, make sure both of you agree on the plan.

KEY STEPS FOR SAFE LIFTING PRACTICES

Establish a Base of Support: Use a wide, balanced stance with one foot in front of the other. Make sure that you have firm footing and that your feet are a shoulders-width apart. This staggered stance gives you the stability of not falling over and being able to secure the load.

Keep Your Eyes Up: Looking slightly upward will help you maintain a better position of the spine. Keeping your eyes focused upwards helps you keep your back straight.

Get a Good Grip: With your palms and make sure you have an adequate hold on the object. Be certain you will be able to maintain a hold on the object without having to adjust your grip later. You can use gloves to help maintain an adequate grip, but don’t rely on gloves because they can desensitize the fingers and make you unable to feel the object.

Lift Gradually with Your Legs: Without using jerky motions. By using your leg strength, your chance of lower back injury is greatly reduced.

Tighten you stomach muscles: As you begin the lift and keep you head and shoulders up.

Pivot – Don’t Twist: Move your feet in the direction of the lift. This will eliminate the need to twist at the waist.

Weight: A lighter load normally means a lesser risk of injury. The weight of the object should be within the capacity of the person to handle safely.

Handling: It is easier to pull or push a load than it is to lift, put down or carry.

Keep the Load Close: Holding a 20lb object with your hands 20 inches from the body creates more compressive force on your low back than holding it 10 inches away. This is because the muscles in your back have to work to counterbalance the weight when it is further from the body. As the compressive force on your low back increases, so does the risk of muscle strains, ligament sprains and damage to the disks in the spine.

Frequency: The more times a load is handled, the more tired the muscles become, making it easier for the person to be injured.

Distance: The farther the load has to be moved, the greater the risk of injury.

Duration (TIME): Where the job involves repetitive movements, reducing the time spent on handling will help to ensure the movements are not causing unnecessary strain.

Forces Applied: Forces should be applied smoothly, evenly and close to the body. Forces exerted should be well within the capacity of the person, and the person should maintain proper posture.

Nature of the Load: Loads that are compact, stable, easy to grip, and capable of being held close to the body are much easier to handle.

Terrain: Rough ground, steep slopes, slippery and uneven floors, stairs and cluttered floors make moving a load awkward and increase the chance for injury.

Environment (Climate & Lighting): If it is too hot, too humid, too cold or the lighting is inadequate, the capacity to work safely is reduced.

Condition of the Workplace: Safe and comfortable working conditions, with adequate space to perform the task, and tools and equipment that are well-maintained, make their job safer.

Age/Gender: Young and old workers alike may be at an increased risk of injury from manual materials handling activities. Ensure abilities of employees are in line with functional job requirements.

Training: Proper training for the specific task is vital to reduce injury.

Team Lifting: If one person cannot lift or move a heavy, large or awkward object safely, organize a team lift. Team lifting reduces the risk of injury, reduces fatigue and makes the task much easier.

Raise/Lower Shelves: The best zone for lifting is between your shoulders and your waist. *Put heavier objects on shelves at waist level, lighter objects on lower or higher shelves.

Avoid Lifting from the Floor: Lifting from the floor can greatly increase your risk of injury for two reasons. Firstly, it is difficult to bring objects close to your body when picking them up from the floor, especially large objects where your knees can get in the way. Secondly, your low back must now support the weights of your upper body as you lean forward, in addition to supporting the weight of the item you are lifting. Lifting the same 20lbs from the floor more than doubles the amount of force on your low back when compared with lifting is from waist height. Even a one pound object lifted from the floor increases you risk of injury if you use a bent over posture.

Get Help When You Need It: Don’t try to lift heavy or awkward loads on your own. Even though the muscles in your upper body may be strong enough to handle the load, the muscles, ligaments and disks in your lower back may be injured because of the additional forces they have to withstand. Get help from a co-worker, and whenever possible, use a cart, hand truck or other mechanical device to move the load for you.

This content was written by Fit2WRK who has partnered with PT and Me to give a comprehensive look into the services physical and occupational therapists provide. For more information on Fit2WRK click here.

Industrial Rehab Physical Therapy PTandMe

Health Aging for a Sustainable Workforce

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What Can Employers Do to Protect an Aging Workforce?

Employers can start by revisiting job descriptions and knowing every detail each work task entails in order to help prevent costly and unnecessary workers’ compensation claims. Meanwhile, they should continue to promote health and wellness programs for all employees. Because older workers bring many benefits, from their experience and knowledge to their motivation and good work ethic, the advantages of employing older workers will outweigh the possible worker’s compensation claims, with preparation and planning.

Companies must utilize and implement preventative safety efforts. Specifically, companies should develop slip-and-fall prevention tactics, considering that slips and falls account for 33 percent of all injuries sustained by workers 65 and older, according to the National Safety Council. Safety training should consist of more than just scripted lectures, distributed
pamphlets and orientation videos. Employees should be taken through the physical movements and tasks that are specific to their job description–a hands-on learning experience. Because younger workers account for the majority of accidents while older workers have longer recovery periods, safety training benefi ts all employees and the employer. Bring in external experts such as physical therapists from the community to teach proper techniques and protocols.

  • Modification of work environment
  • Ergonomics and wellness programs
  • Industrial Athlete approach to exercise
  • Return to work accommodations

AGING WORKFORCE SERVICES:

Education:
A full battery of educational programs are available for both the professional staff of an employer to that of the general employee population such as slip and fall or back injury prevention.

Preventative Maintenance Testing:

A brief test – approx. 15 minutes that looks at the essential and critical factors of the job – usually body part specific and set up as a repeated test – every three to four months on a high risk job position – looking for trends or patterns of degradation of range of motion or strength of employees.

Fitness Programs for the Industrial Athlete:
Detailed stretching programs are customized per high risk job based upon historical injury determinations. The program is set up for employee participation prior to work, returning from lunch and at the end of the workday.

Physical Ability Maintenance:
A custom built strengthening program designed to maintain the physical abilities necessary to perform everyday work.

For more information about staying healthy and injury free in the workplace – try the links below:


       

Adapted from Fit2wrk Article 1.10   For more information on Fit2wrk click here.