Training the Industrial Athlete

Warehouse workers working in retail warehouse

When we hear the word “athlete” most tend to think of a professional, semi-pro, or collegiate level athlete in great shape, strong and agile. We don’t usually think of an athlete in terms of the industrial athlete.

Who are the industrial athletes? They are moms, dads, sisters, brothers, neighbors and so many more in essential frontline roles: healthcare workers, warehouse workers, grocery store stocking clerks, airport baggage handlers, restaurant servers, delivery drivers bringing you your daily goods, the list goes on. These workers are performing critical jobs, so it’s important that we keep them safe and get them home following their shifts. Industrial Athletes are hard-working folks with physically demanding jobs requiring pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying, and climbing. They are performing tasks that require repetitive and strenuous body movements that, if performed incorrectly, can lead to injuries.

The good news is MEMIC injury data shows that when these movements are done correctly, employees can have stronger bodies and longer tenure. So, how do we keep them safe and at work?

We need to incorporate strengthening, conditioning, stretching, and hydration. Employers should create an injury prevention program specific to job demands and incorporate all the elements mentioned above. Companies that only incorporate one or a few components are not as successful in reducing injuries as companies that include all elements. Prevention programs not only reduce injuries, but aid in recovery as well.

A prevention program should be very specific to a job’s demands. Employers must first complete a job site assessment and the position’s job description to identify the physical and functional demands of the job. Once completed, a program can be created to address the job hazards and physical demands. A program might include a warmup, stretching, and strengthening of specific body areas at higher risk. Frequent water breaks are necessary not only during exercise but throughout the day.

Orientation should include education on body mechanics and ergonomics and require return demonstration to verify that the employee understands how tasks can be done in a safe manner. Such orientation should be tailored to the job; one size does not fit all. Of course, providing consistent and frequent coaching throughout the worker’s tenure will reinforce the use of effective body mechanics.

In addition to training, program success depends on hiring the right employee. A pre-employment physical or functional capacity examination can identify potential problems.

Virtual simulations can show the employee the physical demands anticipated for the job. This type of simulated environment presents a unique opportunity to proactively adapt workstations to an employee using ergonomic principles right from the start.

We need to think of our industrial workers more as athletes and set up training programs that help them get comfortable with the job, maintain strength, and prevent injuries. When done correctly and accepted within the work environment, employees stay on the job longer, are healthier, and achieve work-life balance, while companies benefit from a more sustained and healthier workforce.

For more information:

Policyholders can inquire about MEMIC’s ergonomic resources including stretching posters, training tools and E-Ergo assessments.