Should Your Team Warm Up Before They Head Out?

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Find out if a Stretch and Flex Program is Right for Your District

 
Depending on your industry, workers’ compensation can be pretty expensive. So at some point everyone sits down and wonders what they can do to reduce their rates. The single most effective way of lowering your workers’ compensation costs is by reducing the number of workplace injuries. Of course, this is easier said than done. For some districts, the everyday activities of employees include lifting, moving, twisting, and putting themselves in sticky situations that require strength and flexibility. These things are common sources of injury, but there are things we can do to reduce those risks.

Before every workout, big game, or match, athletes warm up or stretch to raise their heart rates and body temperature. This process makes them more alert and improves response times. If this works well for athletes, it may work well for you and your employees.

If you research the benefits of stretching before physical exertion, you will find lots of conflicting information. One study on firefighters completed by the University of Oregon showed compelling statistics1. This study went on for multiple years and at first did not show all that much information. Forty-eight firefighters from a group that engaged in stretching were injured compared with fifty-two from a control group that did not. This difference is statistically insignificant, but as time progressed, they found that the long term medical costs of both groups were vastly different. A total of $85,372 was spent on firefighters that were stretching while a staggering $235,131 was spent on firefighters that did not stretch.

Conversely, a study conducted a year later by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that there was no strong correlation between stretching and injury reduction outcomes2. Other studies have shown similar results since, however what has remained a common and advisable practice is for employees to engage in some type of warm up activity to get their blood pumping.

Additionally, there are more advantages to stretching than just the frequency and severity of injuries. Group warm up activities can include stretching, a group walk around the block, or other light calisthenics. They also provide a great opportunity to touch base with workers that are frequently operating independently in the field. It is also a good way for supervisors to spot workers that may not be ready for duty due to alcohol or drug use, illness, or other risks.

If someone isn’t balancing well or isn’t communicating like they normally do, you have the opportunity to pull them aside and talk to them about what may or may not be going on before they start their day. This type of oversight is a supervisor’s responsibility under the law.

This type of program will not change your rates overnight but it will produce long-term benefits to help reduce injuries involving soft tissue. Spending a couple of minutes every day to warm up before work can help get your team together to discuss safety while also working on a team building activity3.

Sources:
1- http://www.riskandinsurance.com/stretching-risk-management/
2- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15076777
3- http://ehstoday.com/health/workplace-stretching-programs-do-they-work-and-are-they-worth-cost

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