Injury Prevention in the Industrial Employment Setting
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August 22, 2019
By Danielle Roland, MA, ATC
Athletic Trainers (ATs) have the ability to work in various employment settings that provide opportunity for new challenges and growth in their skill set. One setting that has recently become more popular is the industrial setting. Often times there is an adjustment period for ATs practicing in this setting because the patient population is notably different. Patients who work in industrial workplaces typically stand most of the day, are required to wear protective gear, use repetitive motions during production, may have 10 to 12-hour shifts and use tools or operate heavy machinery to complete their tasks. To best serve this patient population, there are four main components that are important for your action plan.
1. Knowledge of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Guidelines
It’s important for an AT to gain knowledge of OSHA guidelines for the workplace. OSHA’s mission is to prevent work-related injuries, illnesses and death. Employers must comply with specific standards to avoid fines during routine inspections. You will also have guidelines to follow when documenting injuries and interactions with employees.
2. Understanding Ergonomics to Create a Safe Workplace
ATs practicing in an industrial setting use ergonomics to create a safe workplace. A good way to think about ergonomics in the workplace is fitting the job to the worker. This will entail observing the employee’s postures as they complete their tasks. You will be looking for efficiency, muscle balance and neuromuscular coordination. Often times you will encounter an employee that has been doing his/her job for several years and has never been corrected. Having an AT onsite several days a week will allow you to work with the employee frequently to break the habitual habit of poor posture. Research states that correction requires constant attention. The AT will also observe workstations, machinery and tools to look for ways to improve posture. For example, adding a stepstool or platform to a station, adding padding to a tool or moving a shelf can be a simple adjustment that will drastically affect the employee’s posture and movement patterns.
3. Knowledge of Proper First Aid for Injuries
The most common injuries that will occur in the industrial setting will be sprains and strains due to repetitive motions. ATs have been educated in massage and active release techniques as well as application of tape and non-rigid wraps which will improve tissue mobility and offer support to joints. Tape and non-rigid wraps fall within the OSHA guidelines of protective gear and can be worn while working. Massage has been shown to reduce pain and increase mobility of connective tissue.
4. Develop Programs to Improve Flexibility and Strength for the Employees
In the industrial setting, it is important to develop individual and group warm-up programs to improve flexibility. Studies have shown that lack of flexibility in the posterior chain can lead to chronic lower back pain. Also, teaching patients individual stretches for each station would greatly reduce the chance of injury by targeting specific muscle groups. Postures become distorted when muscle imbalances are present. Strengthening the weak and neglected muscles would not only create muscle balance but would also make the employee stronger and more efficient at work. ATs have online resources to design individual maintenance programs that may include a short video for the employee to gain instruction on properly performing the stretching or strengthening exercises.
In summary, ATs are unique professionals that offer a wide range of services and can be successful in many environments. Injury prevention in the industrial setting can be achieved by following these four steps. You will not only be helping the employer satisfy OSHA standards but you will also be helping a patient play safe, feel better and work more efficiently!
ACSM’S Guidelines For Exercise Testing And Prescription. 2018; 10th edition
Nancy Hamilton and Kathryn Luttgens. Kinesiology-Scientific Basis of Motion. 2012; 12th edition
Craig R. Denegar. Therapeutic Modalities For Athletic Injuries. 2016; 4th edition; Therapeutic modalities for musculoskeletal injuries
About the Author
Danielle Roland is an Industrial Athletic Trainer for Therapy South in Birmingham, Alabama. She received her bachelor’s in Athletic Training from the University of South Florida in 2004 and master’s in Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2007. She currently works onsite at Lear and Eissmann (automotive companies) and Alabama Power Company doing injury prevention and functional movement screening.