The term “industrial athlete” refers to any employee who makes a living using mental and physical talents to perform their job every day. These occupations frequently require strength, flexibility, coordination and endurance, just like a professional athlete. In municipalities, it is easy to determine who might fall into this category: police, fire, EMS, and corrections employees. But, even within the public sector, there are others who customarily exert themselves as part of their essential job duties. Consider school bus drivers – they have to climb stairs, have quick reaction time on the road, and aid students who are unable to get in and out of buses. Could an industrial athlete approach also apply?
With tightening budgets and pressure to remain staffed, many Gallagher Bassett clients have taken an industrial athlete approach to their workers’ compensation programs. Some of our public sector clients consider their employees (such as deputies, firefighters, and school bus drivers) industrial athletes, investing in strength training, setting expectations with medical providers, and preparing for unavoidable injuries by setting protocol for prompt treatment and recovery. The outcome of these programs has resulted in fewer lost work days, lower claims frequency, and improved employee-employer relationships throughout the claims process, with a focus on the employee's well-being.
Elite athletes have robust and disciplined training programs to prepare them for the pitch, field, or pool. Upon injury, there are protocols for getting the athlete back to health to minimize absence from the playing field. The medical professionals and trainers who treat elite athletes have a clear understanding what it takes to get the athlete back on the field. However, not every employee in the public sector can train, treat, and rebab at an elite level. But, we can bring these concepts to the industrial athlete in the public sector.
The 2017 AFLAC WorkForces Report indicates that 24% of public sector employers are concerned with controlling costs, and 23% are most concerned with managing the productivity of their workforce. By initiating an industrial athlete model, public entity risk management programs can see benefits such as fewer lost work days, lower claims frequency, and heightened employee resiliency following an accident.
Mark Lemire has over 25 years of industry experience. You can find him on LinkedIn.