Musculoskeletal injuries cut 75% with this program

Workers are back on the job up to twice as fast

Fifty more trucks produced a year. That's the result of regaining just six more days of productivity per injured employee, as a result of a musculoskeletal disability management program implemented in Warrenville, IL-based Navistar's truck division.

Previously, physicians routinely kept employees out of work until they were fully recovered. This cost Navistar an average of 12.5 days of productivity per injured employee.

Occupational health professionals set out to educate employees and primary care physicians about options for returning to work after an injury.

As a result, physicians gained better insight into the tasks required of employees, the company's onsite physical therapy facility, and light-duty work assignments that were available. Here are three results:

  • A faster return to work.
    Several employees have returned to work 42 days after carpal tunnel surgery — the previous norm was 56-84 days. "Furthermore, transitional duty assignments have allowed us to bring that lost time down to as little as two or three weeks," says Dan Pikelny, MA, MBA, Navistar's director of health and productivity.
    By working closely with their physicians, employees are better able to gauge their ability to return to some form of work based on range of motion. Injured workers now return to work 50% faster on average.
  • Better care for injured workers.
    Referrals of employees to orthopedic specialists were inconsistent, with some primary care physicians giving inappropriate referrals, while others were not referring when it was appropriate. "Prescribing sedatives also prevented a safe return to work, often eliminating the light-duty work option," notes Pikelny.
    Using guidelines from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Navistar partnered with local primary care physicians to establish treatment protocols for injured truck production employees. Occupational health nurses refer to the guidelines specific to an employee's injury during follow-up interactions with treating physicians.
  • Sharply reduced workers' comp costs.
    Before the program was implemented, a single truck production facility was responsible for about 25% of Navistar's musculoskeletal disability claims. This accounted for 65% of the company's total workers' compensation costs. As a result of the program, work-related injuries at the facility decreased by 75%.
    Indemnity and medical costs per employee also were drastically reduced. With a minimal investment, the program reduced workers' compensation costs by more than $1,500 annually per full-time equivalent (FTE) employee. "In extreme cases, the costs associated with hiring replacement workers can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars," says Pikelny.

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For more information on Navistar's musculoskeletal disability management program, contact:

  • Dan Pikelny, MA, MBA, Director, Health and Productivity, Navistar, Warrenville, IL. Phone: (312) 836-3928. E-mail: dan.pikelny@navistar.com.
  • Guidelines on musculoskeletal conditions from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons can be accessed at the organization's web site (www.aaos.org.) at no charge. Click on "Research," "Clinical Guidelines & Performance Measures," and scroll down for a list of guidelines in PDF format.