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Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention: Protect Yourself from on-the-job Injuries (Part V)

Create an Effective Injury-Prevention Program

Start a dialogue by sharing this article with your employer. Review your agency's injury records for injury types and severity, including days of work lost, so that you can document the need for a program and have a baseline from which to evaluate improvement.A well-thought-out Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention Program (MSIPP) can reduce the incidence of back injuries. If your agency does not currently have a program, or if your program is inadequate, then it's time to develop a process that will help protect you and your peers.

Although anyone in an organization can encourage the development of a program, it requires the commitment and cooperation of staff, administration and union representatives to make it happen. This triad of responsible individuals can develop the structure and support that will make an MSIPP a success.

A weak link or lack of dedication anywhere in this chain will cause a program to fail. If staff members don't feel invested in the program or believe that the program is an excuse for administrators to punish them, they'll do only the minimum required of them. If administrators agree it's a good program but don't fully fund it and don't support it through their own behavior, the staff won't take it seriously. And, of course, the administration and union must both recognize the program as beneficial to their members in order to support it.

Individuals need to see the personal benefits. Often the younger and stronger members of your workforce have a harder time appreciating what can happen to them if they don't take care of their health. Administrators, who are plagued with continuous hits to their budgets, need to calculate the cost-saving benefits of prevention, and union representatives need only to look at the statistics to recognize the importance of safety for their members.

Once a unity of purpose has been established, representatives of all three stakeholder groups can choose the components of a program that will fit their department.

Two important early steps: Review what your department is currently doing, and take an honest look at your own injury statistics. (If you don't have a Safety Committee, this might be the time to start one up.) The Safety Committee can investigate thoroughly every job-related injury or illness claim that has required medical treatment or involved time loss.

When investigating job-related injuries, take note of individual failures to follow safety regulations and look for actions or tools that might have prevented the event. Remember: The investigation should be positive, proactive and directed at the prevention of future incidents and should not be used as an unproductive fault-finding expedition. Recognizing procedural problems is the precursor to developing systems that can reduce the possibility of similar future events.

The Safety Committee can be charged with making prevention recommendations as well as establishing a method for evaluating how system changes have influenced injury statistics. Also, make sure that this committee plays a role in the evaluation of new equipment to ensure that it's ergonomically appropriate.

Don't forget to budget for safety. No matter how good the ideas might be, if there's no budget to support a program, the whole idea may be scrapped. If this happens, try to think outside the box. Review the gold standard program that you want, and determine what components you can afford now and how you can phase in other important parts over the next couple of years. Perhaps you can partner with another agency or a hospital to develop a program and help share the costs of training and implementation. If you live close to a university, you might contact the physical therapy, nursing or medical department to request assistance. A graduate student may be looking for a project and be willing to develop a program for your agency.

It may also be possible to obtain grant funding. You'll find grant-writing experts in most social service agencies. Get to know them and ask them how to find grant sources and write a grant that will support this type of program. A little creativity and a lot of perseverance can open doors never before considered.

Jump back to Part 4

Read more in Part 6


Source: Barbara Dailey,