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Including Back Pain in Your Continuous Improvement Analysis

If you run a business, you are always looking for a way to gain an edge over your competition and grow more profitably. To this end, you spend a lot of time focusing on improving the product or service that you offer your customers, but are you finding all the opportunities you have to improve your bottom line?

Overall, workers with back pain cost U.S. employers an estimated $30 billion per year in lost productivity[i], and the average cost of a chronic low back disorder is $100,000[ii]. You probably apply Continuous Improvement concepts at least to parts of your production processes, but if you don’t apply the same concepts to the health and productivity of your workers you’re leaving money on the table.

Continuous Improvement and Joint Disorders

Continuous Improvement is defined as an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes. How do back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders fit into this?

Overuse injuries to the spine and joints throughout the body are a big driver of expenditures. Despite what you’ve probably been told, these costs shouldn’t be considered just the price of doing business. Through careful analysis, you can make changes to how your workers complete workplace tasks that will put the spine and other body parts at less risk, leading to a healthier workforce – and bottom line. Using Continuous Improvement principles to help reduce injuries to your workers can make your business more competitive and profitable.

Tips for Reducing Healthcare Costs Resulting From Overuse Injuries

The Ohio State University’s Spine Research Institute uses hard data to identify the tasks that are causing injuries, and formulates solutions on how to improve them. Although every situation is unique, here are a few common tips that may help reduce stress injuries in your workplace.

Move Loads to Waist Level

If tasks at your workplace require workers to pick up objects that sit below or above waist level, consider modifying the task so that workers don’t have to bend over or reach up as much. Moving loads to waist level protects your workers’ spines and other joints. Even if the objects being picked up or moved are small, frequently stressing  your workers in this way may lead to injuries.

Reduce the Reach Required to Pick Up Loads

When it gets down to it, back injuries are all about physics. When a load is farther away from the body, the spine has to work harder to compensate for the long moment arm. By moving loads closer to workers, you make it easier for them to handle the loads and put less stress on the muscles and discs in their back.

Minimize the Number of Times a Load Is Handled

Many of the tissues in the human body can be compromised by repeated use. Finding a way to minimize the number of times loads need to be handled by your workers will reduce the repetitive stress on these tissues, resulting in less degeneration and fewer injuries.

Go With the Experts

You may want to take a preliminary look at incorporating these tips into your Continuous Improvement processes, but be wary of using them to enact across-the-board changes.

If you try correcting injury-causing activities by yourself, you may not address the root cause of the problem. Worse yet, you might introduce more serious complications that cost your organization big, and it may take years before you realized you've made a mistake.

Instead, work with the world-renowned ergonomics specialists at The Ohio State University Spine Research Institute.

We gather data at your workplace and in our lab to pinpoint the specific tasks and exertions that increase an employee’s injury risk. This allows us to provide cost-effective personalized solutions and measure the effectiveness of our interventions before they are implemented.

These proven processes have helped industry leaders reduce claims by as much as 90%. If you are interested in learning how to reduce claims for your organization, please give us a call at 614-219-6063.


[i] Based on an assessment of low back disorders derived from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation database.

[ii] 7Ricci, Judith A., Walter F. Stewart, Elsbeth Chee, Carol Leotta, Kathleen Foley, and Marc C. Hochberg. “Back Pain Exacerbations and Lost Productive Time Costs in United States Workers.”  Spine 31.26 (2006): 3052-060. Web. Oct. 2014.