How we reduced back injuries by 40%

Posted on June 30, 2014 Under Uncategorized

The mission from a national retailer was simple – “we must reduce the number of reported back injuries”. While the statement was easy enough to understand without much more explanation, we knew the way to achieving this was less clear. Hand truck

To kick-off, a scoping meeting with the HR Adviser with Health & Safety responsibilities was held. She looked at me, and I looked at her. “So, where do we go from here?” I asked. Five minutes into the meeting, various ideas were brought up, including ways to adapt to known literacy problems.

Due to budget constraints, we did not have room to make multiple modules to cater for specific groups of learners, nor did we have the room to involve the trainers due to their workloads. Luckily, we did have a Literacy Manager available to provide one-on-one coaching on an as required basis. In the end, our strategy focused on skill transfer and making this process as simple as possible.

After a month, the module was developed and launched to 1300 staff nationwide. This mission provided a unique opportunity to complete some data crunching and ROI. Let’s say we started with 50 back injuries every 3 months. After just one quarter, this number dropped to 30 – a mammoth 40% decrease!

In most circumstances, the aim for compliance-based modules is to “tick the box”, unfortunately. While the proviso given to us did not explicitly state that it was that kind of exercise, the HR Adviser and I made a pact to do everything possible to create an effective module that would make a difference.

So, what made this particular compliance module a success?

  • Instructionally designed videos
  • Building authentic situations and environments
  • Planning the communications

Instructionally designed videos

Rather than employing an external contractor to complete the filming, we did this ourselves. By doing this, we had total control over the content, while keeping costs down.

The key within each video was using freeze frames to highlight each step in the lifting process. Our idea was simply that if the learner does not have speakers (by assuming the worst case scenario), the key techniques could still be passed on.

Building authentic situations and environments

We filmed each video in a retail store and hand-picked a willing person to demonstrate correct lifting techniques.  Everything in the videos spelt out “authentic”. The items lifted, the hand trolleys and tools used, and even the way items were taken out of the store to a customer’s car, were demonstrated to highlight different lifting techniques.

Compared to off-the-shelf health and safety videos where a person lifts in an artificial or out of context environment, our videos helped us gain buy-in from the learners. They had a good laugh at their colleagues in the videos and this alone created plenty of “hype” around the water cooller.  Afterall, without their buy-in, we would be wasting our time.

Planning the communications

Cut in feesHow often in your organisation have you been told, “You must complete this compliance module by (a certain date)?” This style of delivery would send even the most avid learner running for the hills. In fact, if they weren’t running out the door, you would at the very least hear a collective moan from across all corners of the office.

In some ways, we used reverse psychology, and encouraged everyone to complete the module for the sake of keeping themselves and their work mates safe (as opposed to the benefit the company would receive in relation to cuts in the  ACC levies). We couldn’t say this meant we had 100% completion, however, it certainly minimised the decibels of the collective moan.

In conclusion…

We successfully designed and executed the mission in front of us. The module played a major role in securing a significant saving to the retailer’s bottom line through lower levies. What was most pleasing to us was the fact that the module helped to improve people’s general wellbeing while at work.