The Effect of Workplace Based Strengthening on Low Back Injury Rates: A Case Study in the Strip Mining Industry

Introduction

The purpose of this study was to demonstrate the effect of a once a week exercise program focused specially at lumbar extensor strengthening. Because of increasing insurance rates, the safety manager in the strip mining business was prepared to initiate a more specific training program utilizing dedicated equipment. The previous program involved lecture training and had no effect on changing the incidence of workplace injury. A new safety coordinator with a background in fitness training, but no medical treatment experience, was hired. After presenting his proposal to carry out specific strength training to the management, they agreed to fund the project and purchase the test and exercise tool. He received training in the use of the MedX lumbar extension machine and a program using the equipment was initiated.

Summary

The study compared workers who volunteered to exercise with the machine compared to workers who did not, 90% of the subjects reported that they had previous back problems. The subjects were all placed on the same exercise protocol which took place during work outs. The 20 week program showed a 54% to 104% increase in strength. The incidence of back injuries in the exercise group was significantly lower than that of the control group. The average worker’ compensation liability dropped over 10 thousand dollars for the study year. The study concluded that the significant increase in strength associated with the exercise program correlated with the greatly reduced incidence of back claims.

Key Findings

  • The incidence of back injuries in the exercise group was .52 injuries per 200,000 employee hours versus the industry average of 1.09 back injuries per 200,000 employee hours
  • The average incidence of injury for the previous nine years at the company participating in the program was 2.94 injuries per 200,000 employee hours
  • The injury incidence in the workers not exercising was 2.55 injuries for 200,000 employee hours
  • The average workers’ compensation liability dropped from $14, 430.00 per month to $380.00 per month for the study year

Keywords: Workers compensation, MedX Lumbar Extension, compensation liability, injuries, workplace

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