A line operator from a grocery products company came to the occupational health unit complaining of lower back pain. He was given advice regarding posture and exercises to help his back, put on restricted work and advised to see his GP for further treatment. The following week he went off sick. He was in touch with the occupational health unit throughout his absence and had regular visits to the company doctor and his own GP. He was off for a total of 6 months and had rehabilitation for a further 2 months, which cost the company 8 months of his salary.
Following this incident the company started an in house physiotherapy clinic, using a local sports injury physiotherapist. The clinic ran for two hours twice a week. Staff are referred to the clinic through the occupational health unit. The company's policy is that anyone referred by the unit will see the physiotherapist within one week. The physiotherapist and OH nurse also provided manual handling training on the production lines and in offices focussing on individual and practical approaches.
Five staff were sent to the Health and Safety Laboratory in Buxton for a course on the theory and practice of ergonomics. The staff trained included engineering and production managers; this allowed for a pro-active approach to ergonomic issues to be taken when there were new developments to the plant's engineering processes.
Six months after the clinic started, the same line operator again complained of lower back pain and went off sick. He was referred to the company physiotherapist and was seen within two days. With physiotherapy input, total time off was one month followed by a rehabilitation period of 2 weeks. The salary costs of this time off to the company was only six weeks.
A comparison between the two sick periods taken by this specific employee, shows that the introduction of the clinic meant the company reduced the cost by over 80%because it provided him with rapid, specialist, treatment at the start of the second period off work. This one episode of illness alone recovered the cost of the service for that year.
The use of in house physiotherapy, whilst useful is exceptional and not required for compliance with the law.