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Occupational Health & Safety

How movement data is helping injured people return to work faster

14 Oct 2022, by Amy Sarcevic

For many years, former physiotherapist and technology innovator, Scott Coleman, has been helping professional athletes avoid training overload and injury, through his suite of wearable devices that collect data on movement.

However, it wasn’t until his mother sustained an injury at work as a nurse that he considered the potential of his technology in other sectors.

Since then, Scott’s wearable tech has made an impact in industries such as transport and logistics – guiding workers to make safer movements that reduce the risk of injury.

He says, the data collected from sensors takes the guesswork out of safety and return to work policies, and helps workers in high risk professions feel more confident.

“Truck drivers, in particular, face a significant risk of injury at work, with long periods of muscle relaxation followed by heavy lifting,” said Scott ahead of the Safety in Action Conference, hosted by Informa Connect.

“Our devices can monitor the movements and posture of drivers against a benchmark, and provide safety alerts when a risk threshold is crossed. This removes any human bias from such judgements, and gives both employers and employees peace of mind.”

Preventing re-injury (and fear of it)

This peace of mind is perhaps felt most profoundly among people returning to work following an injury.

“People often don’t know what their exertion threshold is after sustaining an injury, which puts them at serious risk of re-injury,” Scott said.

“The data from the devices can inform doctors, physios, return to work (RTW) coordinators, and the employees themselves – none of whom are immune from human bias – on best practice for that individual’s RTW. This drastically reduces the risk.”

By giving workers clarity on what they can and cannot do, Scott’s tool can also give people the confidence to return to work sooner; in turn, improving their recovery.

Research shows that fear of re-injury is a strong predictor of delayed RTW. Moreover, delayed RTW is linked with delayed recovery.

“RTW is usually a socially-negotiated process, so giving people the confidence to go back into work is important for the organisation and the individual,” Scott said.

Concerning statistics

Statistics tell us that improving Australia’s occupational health and safety performance should be a priority.

Between 2019 and 2020, there were 120 355 serious injury claims made nationally, with an average 6.6 working weeks lost – and $13 5000 in compensation paid – for each claim. While this figure has dropped by 23 percent since the previous decade, there is still a significant room for improvement.

Scott says the technology can help organisations drastically reduce their lost time injury frequency (LTIF) rates – one of the key OHS performance indicators.

“Our clients have seen between 30 and 50 percent reductions in LTIF rates in the first 3 to 6 months of using our technology,” he said.

How does it work?

“We use two small sensors to accurately measure a workers’ movements. The data collected gives you load scores for Shoulder, Back, and Lower Limb (Slip/Trip/Fall) Musculoskeletal injury risks,” said Scott.

“The back sensor sits on the back collar, around T4/T5. This is the second most validated wearable sensor position after the wrist. And, the same position that’s stitched into the back of athlete jerseys.

“The arm sensor is on a velcro strap and can go under or over work uniforms. Both sensors can be attached by a worker in just a few seconds.”

Other industry applications

Alongside transport and logistics, Scott’s technology has been welcomed by industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, mining and natural resources, retail and warehouse / distribution.

Hear more from Scott Coleman about these industry applications at the Safety in Action Conference, hosted by Informa Connect.

This year’s event will be held 26-27 October at the Rendezvous Hotel, Melbourne.

Joining Scott on the stage are senior representatives from SafeWork Australia, Diversity Council Australia, Goodstart Early Learning, and FWC Lawyers.

Learn more and register your place here.

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