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A Proactive Healthcare Approach to Manufacturing

Jan. 8, 2021
On-site clinics can help reduce healthcare costs and injuries.

An employer’s approach to healthcare benefits remains ever-changing as competition for skilled and dedicated workers is tight. Many question what employee health and wellness in the manufacturing industry will look like in a post-COVID world. Some constants remain: potential hazards on the job, skyrocketing healthcare costs, and missed hours as a result of on-the-job injuries.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks manufacturing as the third most dangerous occupation for workers based on the number of non-fatal injuries. An industry often known for its generous benefits packages given the kind of work that is expected of employees, manufacturing has the opportunity to uplevel common employee healthcare offerings as we learn more about the long-term effects this line of work has on the human body.

Workers who engage in highly repetitive motions, heavy lifting, persistent walking, or standing for hours at a time are at risk for severe injuries over long periods of time. The impact is often short- and long-term recovery days off for employees, which is why human resources and safety managers at manufacturers are turning to a more proactive approach for employee health.

Recently, Solar Plastics, a subsidiary of Atek Companies, wanted to reduce repetitive motion injuries and OSHA injury rates. After researching available options, the company realized it needed an on-site healthcare program. Working with a third-party firm, Solar Plastics implemented a program that would offer the services needed to attract top talent, including ergonomic and chiropractic care.

On-site clinics have become more than a health benefit; they also lead to positive health outcomes and help to decrease medical expenses for the company and employee.

On-site clinics come in several forms and include complementary and integrative healthcare such as chiropractic, massage, educational and motivational services, and workstation assessments. There is no out-of-pocket cost to the employees and the clinics are available during working hours. These services result in reduced stress, improved mental and physical well-being, and empower employees to take ownership of their health.

While the costs of investments for employee health and wellness are typically regarded as overhead, there are three long-term positive impacts on the workplace companies should consider.

Reduced Healthcare Costs and Injuries

With on-site care, a chiropractor can help identify, educate and correct improper movements or lifting in the work setting. And practitioners can pinpoint other potential risks or underlying symptoms before the problem occurs or becomes more severe. For example, correcting biomechanics while lifting heavy objects is a lot easier and less costly than back surgery.

Proactively treating potential injuries will decrease time off work, medical expenses, and more. Some on-site clinics have experienced up to a $4 cost savings for every $1 invested in on-site care; others have benefited from a significant reduction in workplace injuries after implementation.

Reduced Absenteeism or Presenteeism

Unengaged employees cost the U.S. between hundreds of billions of dollars per year in lost productivity, but experts say health benefits can move the needle by reducing burnout, stress and underlying health conditions. By proactively addressing these concerns and promoting wellness, employees will be less distracted, which will minimize the amount of life-altering accidents that occur far too frequently in the manufacturing industry. Chiropractic and other complementary care models can reduce the impact of those annoyances and can positively impact employees’ mental health.

Reduced Drug Dependency

By focusing on prevention and early intervention, clinicians can address health issues before addictive and often expensive prescription drugs are needed. Chiropractic treatment might be the appropriate first option for drug-free and non-invasive back and general neuro-musculoskeletal pain management. Research has shown that prescribing opioids excessively and too early after a workplace injury can lead to additional risks for both the worker and employer. Addressing stress and pain early on provides necessary care for workers while eliminating potentially harmful behaviors and increasing their focus and ability to work.

While initially an expense, on-site care clinics are a direct investment in employees. Programs are adaptable for businesses and employee headcounts of all sizes. This model of care is likely to become more prevalent in the industry and incorporated by both large and small businesses.

Chad Henriksen, DC, is director of WorkSiteRight at Northwestern Health Sciences University

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