Smith & Nephew – musculoskeletal conditions and back pain
|Company name||Smith & Nephew – Advanced Wounds Management unit|
|Number of employees||1,085<|
|Type of workforce||Manual production workers|
What issue was the organisation facing?
- Smith & Nephew’s product handling processes can be repetitive in nature and lead to injuries. Risk assessments on the operatives identified a lack of understanding and under reporting of soft tissue injuries and upper limb disorders.
- In 2006 certified absence relating to upper limb disorders was 450 working days. Of these, only 12 days (3%) were reported a direct line to the workplace – but GPs had taken the decision to refrain the employee from work simply based on their job description.
- We wanted to develop a programme that helps reduce the occurrence of injuries, that makes staff aware that it is possible to work whilst experiencing health issues and that provides all the support they need along the way.
What action did the organisation take?
We introduced an awareness programme called Body Stretch aimed to:
- provide better understanding on the prevention of upper limb disorders
- reduce the incidence of soft tissue injuries
- make staff aware of the importance of reporting symptoms
- encourage staff to remain at work through rehabilitation programmes.
Some initiatives include:
- Free physiotherapy assessments for employees who are off work as a result of upper limb disorders. Discussions then take place between the physiotherapist, the employees GP and line manager to identify how work can be accommodated to encourage their return, for example, reduced hours, limited tasks or alternative work in another area.
- Physiotherapy training sessions for all staff, addressing:
- how to identify soft tissue injuries
- how to prevent soft tissue injuries
- what to do if symptoms present/persist
- body warm up exercises specific to the nature of the work being carried out
- 1 to 1 training on the programme for all new staff members within the departments.
What has been the impact of implementing health interventions?
- Improved communication between occupational health, line managers and operatives so health work-related issues are dealt with faster and more effectively.
- Quicker detection of soft tissue injuries aggravated by work tasks so instant adjustments can be made to the operatives work.
- 24% of operatives have reported soft tissue injuries early and only one person has needed time off (7 day absence), proving that workers will remain at work if we accommodate their needs.
- Greater staff retention and sustainable production output.
- Extension of the programme to the rest of the factory.