Each year, employers in one specific field spend millions of dollars ensuring that their employees are not just effective in their jobs, but can excel on a daily basis while also avoiding injuries that are costly to the organization and detrimental to the overall performance of the workforce.
What’s the industry? Athletics.
Professional athletes train hard, with exceptionally refined and sophisticated exercise and wellness programs, with the goal of delivering high-level performance on the playing field to help their teams win games and championships. Their jobs are inherently physical and demand high levels of exertion, no matter the sport or the position the athlete plays. And with the high financial stakes involved in the world of professional sports, it’s no wonder that their teams support them with coaches, exercise regimens, nutritional resources, and other forms of training that improve overall fitness.
In other fields, workers perform tasks that are no less critical to the success and growth of their organizations. Construction, manufacturing, warehousing, transportation, infrastructure, and other industries are maintained by the labor and effort of workers responsible for jobs that require a high level of physical effort, and when an employee suffers an injury, it’s no less detrimental to the overall success of the organization than a pro player sitting out a critical game. In most cases, workers do not have the rest and recovery period that most athletes enjoy thus increasing the risk of injury.
So how can employers adopt the strategies used by professional sports teams to improve their workers’ fitness levels, boost performance, and prevent injuries?
The answer is industrial athlete training.
What is an industrial athlete?
In short, an industrial athlete is any worker whose tasks require physical strength, endurance, and flexibility. There’s a good chance your organization employs industrial athletes at some level, even if you haven’t previously thought of your employees that way. But the fact is that industrial athletes carry our world on their backs, sometimes quite literally.
Examples of industrial athletes are found in almost every industry. Construction workers and warehouse employees, nurses and care aides, mail carriers, truck drivers, electricians, manufacturing workers, and many other employee types fall into the category of industrial athlete.
The nature of their work means that industrial athletes are often at higher risk of injuries ranging from overexertion (strains and sprains) and repetitive motion injuries (Carpal tunnel, chronic soft-tissue pain) to accidents like slips, trips, and falls. They’re also more likely to experience fatigue as a result of their work, putting them at increased risk of accidents and other injuries. Consider these injury facts:
- Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) require an average of 11 missed workdays
- MSDs account for roughly 600,000 injuries per year across the U.S.
- 34% of missed work days can be attributed to an MSD-related injury (Source)
To help them avoid these injuries, workers need industrial athlete training.
What is an industrial athlete training program?
An industrial athlete training program combines several elements into a holistic strategy aimed at improving overall conditioning and fitness, boosting endurance, and strengthening key muscle groups to reduce the risk of soft-tissue injury. An effective industrial athlete program should include:
- Assessment of employee or employee groups’ fitness to collect data that will help tailor training strategies to individual workers’ or departmental needs
- Biomechanics training to identify key movements and improve task technique to reduce injury risk, improve range of motion and eliminate pain associated with many jobs
- Work hardening to boost employee fitness as it directly relates to their job responsibilities
- Personal training to provide workers with custom exercises, fitness regimens, and nutritional advice that will improve overall performance and reduce injury risks
What are the benefits of an industrial athlete training program?
1. Improved worker performance
Just as people who aren’t athletes can benefit from the fitness improvements that come with a consistent workout regimen, your industrial athletes will see improved performance across their job tasks through industrial athlete training. Training increases strength boosts stamina, and helps workers accomplish their tasks effectively while also reducing muscle fatigue that can slow employees down.
2. Lower injury rates
Industrial athlete training is specifically targeted at strengthening the soft tissues that are most at risk for musculoskeletal disorders or other ergonomic injuries. A personal trainer will identify specific areas of risk for each worker and devise exercises that reduce the risk of tissue damage and strain. Likewise, biomechanics training teaches workers safe movements and techniques for their specific tasks, helping mitigate inherent risk factors and avoid costly injuries.
3. Less time to recover from injuries
Even the best training programs may not prevent every single injury although the goal of zero is something we are strive for and should manage to. However, when workers are better equipped for their jobs with higher fitness and conditioning levels, their bodies are also generally better able to recover from any injuries that do occur. That means lower recovery times, fewer missed work days, less presenteeism that hampers productivity, and a more cohesive workforce.
4. More data to identify injury risks and areas for improvement
All safety programs should be informed by data and based on scientific evidence. Cost-effective interventions depend on accurate data that’s specific not just to the work site, but to individual employees, each of whom has specific physical traits and injury risk factors. A good industrial athlete program features an assessment of job responsibilities and worker fitness levels, allowing you to collect data that will help you create a roadmap toward a healthier, fitter, safer and more productive workforce.
5. Stronger safety culture
Finally, industrial athlete training programs also contribute to the intangible aspects of workplace safety that many EHS professionals refer to as “safety culture.” In short, safety culture is an organizational attitude toward safety and wellness that extends from the C-suite down to individual front-line workers. It encourages transparency and honesty in reporting injuries and risk factors and helps ensure that employees are actively invested in their own safety and wellness. A strong safety culture is one of the most effective ways that an employer can reduce the costs associated with work-related injuries.
Given the proper tools and training, all workers can reap the benefits of industrial athlete training and improved conditioning. So too can their employers, through reduced costs and higher productivity that directly benefits the bottom line.
Ready to get started with an industrial athlete training program at your facilities?
Contact DORN today for a free consultation and learn how you can implement these principles in your workplace and start seeing immediate safety and cost benefits.