Managing the safety and wellness of the workforce has never been easy, and the COVID-19 pandemic has created even more challenges for safety professionals. Facing significant budget shortfalls and cuts in expenses across the board in addition to the serious illness risk, many businesses were left with little recourse but to temporarily shut down their worksites, with the majority of employees left out of work for the duration of the closures.
When facilities reopened, many did so with dramatically reduced budgets and limited safety resources. As a result, safety managers have been forced to scale back their on-site safety programming, including key pain relief therapies, biomechanics training and other ergonomic programs that prevent costly injuries. These effects have not been limited to smaller businesses or traditionally “risky” industries: giants such as Amazon have reported more costly injuries in their warehouses in 2020 than either the meatpacking or logging industry, according to Washington state officials. Safety leaders from Amazon also reported side effects of the injury spike, such as workers’ compensation insurance premiums increasing by 18% this year.
With new waves of the coronavirus upon us and no firm timeline for returning to normalcy, many safety leaders are recognizing the critical importance of these in-person, on-site solutions in preventing worker injuries and ensuring that a strong year in 2021 isn’t derailed by preventable safety risk.
Recently, DORN compiled 2020 injury data from one of our major manufacturing clients. The case study analysis revealed two things: that injury risks are spiking as businesses adjust to new constraints and the impact of deconditioning from long periods off work, and that on-site injury prevention programs are essential components of a strong COVID preparedness plan for 2021.
Safety Industry Case Study: Mattress Manufacturer Demonstrates Need for On-site Therapies
One of thousands of businesses forced to close down operations in the first half of 2020, our client in the bedding manufacturing sector opted to close 10 of their 13 sites in March. Up to this point, DORN pain relief specialists had provided on-site safety services for all 13 sites.
The week before our client was forced to close 10 of their facilities due to local COVID -19 restrictions, the entire company reported just 10 work-related safety incidents (not all incidents results in injuries) across all 13 sites.
Eventually, the 10 shuttered sites reopened and DORN injury prevention specialists were brought back from 2 weeks to 1 month after reopening. The first week after resuming on-site safety programming, the client reported a total of 84 work-related injury incidents—a massive increase over the weekly results from March.
And here’s another striking data point: At the three sites that kept running with on-site DORN safety services, just one work-related injury incident was reported between March and August while the other facilities were closed.
4 Reasons to Include On-Site Therapies and Safety Programming in 2021
1) Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) remain the top injury risk
With so much concern over stopping the spread of illness, it’s easy to lose focus on the day in, day out factors that contribute to high organizational costs from injuries, absenteeism, and presenteeism. Unfortunately, musculoskeletal injuries remain the top source of injury risk for most businesses, especially those with large front-line workforces with industrial athletes who are working harder than ever under unusual circumstances. Preventing MSDs, repetitive strain injuries (RSIs), and other ergonomic incidents should be the top area of focus for safety professionals going into 2021.
2) New hires face greater injury risk
Turnover and hiring of new staff can both contribute to high costs, especially when businesses are hiring more workers to help them catch up from the shutdown. Amazon’s spike in injury rates this year is at least in part due to their hiring large numbers of new workers, who are more vulnerable to workplace injury than employees with more experience at the organization. If your business is looking to expand its workforce with more hiring, you will need additional on-site injury prevention resources to support and protect those workers.
3) The workforce is getting older
According to government census data, the portion of older people who remain in the workforce has increased over the past few decades. One in 4 workers in 2020 are aged 55 or above, and the risk of a workplace injury resulting in death increases dramatically at that age. Older workers are simply at higher risk of injury, and require support tailored to their needs.
4) Technology is making it easier to keep workers safe
From predictive fatigue management software to exoskeletons and wearable devices, technology has made considerable leaps in the arena of worker safety. Integrating technology solutions into your on-site injury prevention program can help augment workers’ strength, protect them from injury, and boost productivity.
Learn more about the DORN approach to safety in a special webinar hosted by CEO and President Kevin Lombardo.
5 Pillars of Safety: Conducting a COVID-19 Preparedness Audit
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the DORN team began evaluating clients’ safety needs and constructing a template to help businesses reopen successfully. That process resulted in a COVID preparedness plan aimed at preventing injuries and chronic pain while adjusting for new public health guidelines, broken down into 5 pillars. The main areas of concern for safe operations in the COVID era include:
- Workforce planning
- Physical environment
- Active monitoring
- Prevention and sustainability
- Virtual and on-site injury prevention services
Curious how other major businesses and manufacturers are managing their safety needs for 2021? Watch the latest episode of the DORN Injury Prevention Podcast, featuring Huey Nunn, VP of EHS at Dover Corporation. Dr. Nunn’s over 20 years of experience have helped him craft a successful injury prevention strategy at Dover, and his safety recommendations are proven to reduce injury rates. Watch the episode on YouTube.
As the new year approaches and we all look to put 2020 behind us, worker safety must remain a paramount concern for businesses even as they deal with a new reality in constant flux. By combining a proactive COVID preparedness plan with critical on-site therapies, ergonomic solutions, training, and innovative technology, businesses can ensure they’re heading into 2021 on strong footing.