"A workforce of industrial athletes"
Michael Bell is, in the words of his boss, an industrial athlete. As a meat worker he puts his body on the line. It’s physically demanding work – lifting, pushing and pulling heavy slabs of beef throughout a shift – and he goes home tired and sore. But last year he also went home injured. “I just moved my arm the wrong way and felt my shoulder pop,” he says, “I’ve pretty much been in pain for the past eight months.”
The incidence of injuries like Michael’s has long been a concern for his employer, Teys Australia. At the Tamworth beef-processing facility where Michael works, data shows the average working life of those in the most physical jobs is about 10 to 15 years before the cumulative effect of injuries require serious surgery, long periods of rehabilitation and even forced retirement from the line. Like a professional athlete, if you’re still a slaughterer or boner past the age of 40 you’re considered old.
Appreciating both the human toll and financial cost of these injuries, Teys Australia was keen to pursue a management strategy that put prevention before cure or compensation. The company strives to be good employer by looking after its workers, says workers compensation manager Trent Rickard: “We needed to come up with a way to identify at an earlier stage injuries and illnesses and look at ways of reducing those.”
Prevention before cureIn this workers insurance case study, Teys Australia share their worker-centred approach to keeping their workforce fit and healthy.
Onsite fitness and condition centre
The result is the establishment of an onsite Fitness and Condition Centre at Teys, with assistance from icare as well as risk-management funds from insurer Allianz.
Following exercise plans devised by onsite medical staff, physiotherapists and exercise physiologists, workers make use of the treadmills, cross trainers, weights and resistance training equipment to improve their strength and fitness. This helps to prevent injuries as well as getting workers like Michael back to full health. ”I come up every day before my shift starts to do a few exercises,” he says, “and it’s actually making me feel a lot better.”
The exercise plans are specifically tailored to improve muscular resilience for the routine tasks required on the job. Physiotherapist Alycia Young compares the process to training an elite athlete: “We’ve got to keep them on the field, get them back on the field as quickly as possible and make it as specific as possible.”
General manager Lachlan Teys concurs: “We look at our workforce as really being industrial athletes. They have to be very fit to do what they do. Similar to playing football, there’s a certain level of stamina and fitness required, otherwise there are injuries.”
Teys’ partnership with icare in establishing the Fitness and Condition Centre is a prime example of the agency’s mission to encourage managing workplace occupational health and safety in a holistic and creative way, taking measures to intervene and prevent injuries rather than expending resources after the fact on rehabilitation and compensation. In the long run, Teys will benefit from lower insurance premiums as well as the productivity benefits of a healthier and happier workforce.
“Teys is a wonderful customer story,” say icare’s general manager of loss prevention and pricing, Jason McLaughlin. icare has therefore rewarded the company’s initiatives with an “icare aware” recognition award for its role in going above and beyond traditional industry strategies to ensure the safety and wellbeing of employees.