What OHS can learn from elite sports about injury prevention and improving RTW outcomes

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Friday, 24 April, 2020 - 15:45
Industry news
National News

The most effective injury prevention and return to work programs exist in the elite sports field, which can teach OHS professionals valuable lessons about using wearable technology to reduce injury risk and improve return to work outcomes, according to an expert in the field.

This is because the athlete’s movements are measured in training and competition, and data analysis is used to compare each individual’s movements with specific benchmarks to identify injury risks, said Scott Coleman, managing director of specialist consulting firm Preventure.

“These risks can then be addressed in a measurable way before symptoms occur,” said Coleman.

“While there are some obvious differences between the training and competition loads for athletes and workers, the concept remains the same.”

If the demands of a work task are higher than the individual’s capacity to do the task, they have a high injury risk, he said.

“The best way to measure the demands of the task, and the capacity of each individual worker to perform the task is to measure their movements using wearable technology whilst they are performing the task,” said Coleman, who was speaking ahead of an AIHS webinar on using wearable technology to reduce injury risk, which will be held on 29 April 2020.

This also applies to workers returning from injury.

“Specific movement benchmarks are established for each work task, and the individual workers movements are compared to these benchmarks to identify whether they are ready to return with minimal risk of re-injury,” he said.

“If they are not ready the data indicates which areas they need to improve, whether it’s limitations on their range of motion or movement control.”

Coleman also observed that, when it comes to OHS and use of technology, most organisations are still doing things the same way they have done them for the past 20 years.

“The resistance to change is by far the biggest barrier for organisations when it comes to adopting any new injury prevention initiatives,” he said.

“It’s easier to just keep doing what they are doing rather than introduce something new unless there is a sense of urgency such as an increase in injury rates and insurance claims.”

The cost of the technology is also a barrier, as the early wearable technology products available to the OHS industry were very expensive.

While the cost has come down with the increase in the number of wearable technology products available, Coleman said many of them are not easy to use and do not integrate well into daily operations so the resistance to change is still a barrier.

“Every year it is becoming more cost-effective to use wearable technology and data analysis to identify and address injury risks,” he said.

“Wearable technology will eventually be an essential tool used by OHS professionals to help them identify and address injury risks in an accurate and valid way.”

It will also enable them to effectively manage the injury risks for larger workgroups distributed over bigger areas, as they can identify the highest risks using data and invest their time and effort in the workers who need them the most.

“This is of particular value with the current COVID-19 limitations as the wearable technology can be distributed to workers and the injury risks can be managed remotely,” said Coleman.


Coleman will present at an AIHS webinar on using wearable technology to reduce injury risk on 29 April 2020. For more information email events@aihs.org.au, call (03) 8336 1995 or visit the webinar website.