Stretching helps drastically reduce injuries in metro workers - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Stretching helps drastically reduce injuries in metro workers

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Public Works employees lay cement in Louisville Public Works employees lay cement in Louisville
Every morning, at Public Works districts across Jefferson County, employees are starting their morning with a five to ten minute stretch. Every morning, at Public Works districts across Jefferson County, employees are starting their morning with a five to ten minute stretch.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Road crews and sanitation workers perform physically demanding work every day. For years, the hard labor has resulted in sprains and strains that keep workers off the job for weeks -- sometimes months.

In the last two years, workplace injuries at Metro Public Works have been cut in half. Officials say it is largely in part to a daily stretching routine. The routine was implemented as part of an initiative to create a culture of safety in the department.

Every morning, at Public Works districts across Jefferson County, employees are starting their morning with a five to ten minute stretch. The stretching is led by a different employee every morning, and isn't limited to those performing physical labor. Office workers also partake in the morning routine.

"You've got to have a healthy workforce because if you don't have employees here, the work isn't going to get done," said Safety Training Manager Chris Scamahorne.

In 2012, Public Works looked at its rate of OSHA recordable injuries -- injuries that keep employees from working or limit their duties. In the first month, officials found a rate of over 30 percent.

The findings prompted the department to implement a program that they hoped would improve safety culture. A large aspect of the program was the stretching routine.

"Two years ago, we had a lot of muscle injuries, sprains and strains and stuff and this is one way we are trying to mitigate any future injuries," said Scamahorne.

The stretching seems to be working: officials say the injury rate at Public Works has been cut in half during the past two years.

"The OSHA rate, the lost time injury rate continues to drop, the workers comp keeps going down," said Scamahorne. "It's a win-win for the department."

Solid waste worker Steven Shanklin knows strains and sprains come with the job, so he likes the stretching routine.

"It's like any professional athlete, you can't go out there without warming your body up," he said. "It's a lot of bending, straining, lifting, twisting, you know moving body parts that you don't move on an everyday job."

While the stretching helps prevent injury, a new policy allows injured workers to take administrative jobs and get them back to work faster. The modified duty policy allows injured workers to keep their salaried pay and benefits, without putting their health at risk.

Julie Toler with Public Works says the policy has not only resulted in workers healing faster, but it is saving the city money in over time and workers compensation claims.

"They may come downtown and work at an office and answer phones, they may be doing some filing, or we may have a solid waste crew out with a road crew flagging," said Toler.

In addition, Public Works has implemented job site safety audits twice a day, and safety talks once a week.

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