Are you a workplace injury prevention Enigmatologist?

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 11, 2022 10:30:00 AM / by Deborah Lechner

shutterstock_274068050Enigmatologist is a term that was coined by Will Shortz, the former editor of Games magazine, He's currently the editor of thNew York Times crossword puzzle. Mr. Shortz is apparently the only person in the history of the world to have a degree in Enigmatology (the University of Indiana, 1974). The term refers to one who is analytical - a good problem solver – or one who is skilled in analysis.

Solving a jigsaw puzzle, for example, requires you to look at the individual pieces and figure out where they will best fit into the big picture – a jig saw enigmatologist.

While you may never have considered yourself an enigmatologist, if you are a safety director and/or director of risk management, you’re likely constantly looking at the individual aspects of your workplace injury prevention program and trying to fit them into the big picture of injury prevention – solving the problem of workplace injuries.

Which makes you an injury prevention enigmatologist! (I’m betting that’s a job title you’ve never considered 😊)

In order to put all the pieces together, you have to have all the pieces in the first place. Have you ever opened a new jig saw puzzle to find one or two key pieces missing? Perhaps you only discover that frustrating fact after you’ve spent days, weeks, months working on the big picture – just to find you don’t have all the pieces to complete the puzzle in the first place.

What a waste – of time, money and effort…

Same thing happens – only on a larger scale – when you try to reduce workplace injuries by using only some of the key workplace injury prevention strategies. You might reduce some of the injuries but you’re left with a significant number that frustrate you and your colleagues in safety and risk management – not to mention the higher-ups who are counting on you to solve the whole puzzle.

What does a comprehensive injury prevention program look like?

Let’s review.

Job Analysis. At the core of any good injury prevention program is the ability to match the workers’ physical abilities to the physical requirements of the work. How can you do this if the physical requirements of the work/job are unknown? Companies who don’t have good detailed physical job analysis reports will ultimately fail at finding and connecting the big pieces of their injury prevention program. Job analysis is step one.

Ergonomic Assessment. Have you also looked at all the jobs from an ergonomics perspective? Most of the time you can’t eliminate all of the stress, but you can make the job less stressful. Identifying the ergonomic hazards of the work and developing countermeasures to minimize the stress when possible goes a long way toward preventing injuries.

Pre-Hire Physical Abilities Testing. The second step of a good injury prevention program is to hire the right people for the job. How can you expect to prevent injuries, if day after day, week after week…you are asking your employees to do jobs for which they’re not physically capable? No amount of training will solve this problem. You have to start with the right hires. By conducting job-specific pre-hire Physical Abilities Testing, you’ll ensure that employees have the physical ability to do the job.

New-Hire Worker Training & Work Conditioning. Now that you have the right people, your investment in safety and ergonomics training will likely pay off. Even if the person hired can do the job, they would likely benefit from a gradual ramp in to full duty to give their bodies time to adapt to the pace and endurance of the shift. And are they consistently using the right lifting technique? Do they know how to position their bodies to minimize the inevitable day to day stress? Are they properly instructed in stretch breaks? Do they understand that anything over 50 lbs. requires a 2-person lift or use of the mechanical lift? It pays to take the time to physically onboard – just as you onboard to your other work policies and practices.  

OSHA Compliant Early Intervention Programs. Regardless of whether you’ve taken all the aforementioned steps, some employees will develop overuse injuries over time. Perhaps their bodies change. Perhaps the work gets harder, the hours get longer and your workers age. And often these overuse injuries come on gradually. At first, it’s a feeling of excessive fatigue in a body part. At some point the fatigue becomes discomfort and if no intervention occurs, the discomfort eventually becomes pain that results in a lost time injury or recordable.

But the downward spiral can be interrupted with an OSHA-compliant Early Intervention Program (EIP). By applying interventions that OSHA considers first aid, nearly 70% of the signs of early discomfort can be addressed successfully, without medical intervention.    

Return-to-Work Testing. And last but not least, if a lost time or restricted duty injury does occur, making sure that the employee is ready to resume physical job requirements is essential. A medical release is just releases an employee from a medical perspective – the medical condition no longer prevents return to work. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the employee can safely perform the most physically difficult aspects of the job. Only a return-to-work physical abilities test can determine whether the employee can safely perform the lifting, stooping, squatting, reaching or other physically demanding functions of the job.

Solve your injury prevention puzzle. As an injury prevention enigmatologist, you won’t likely be satisfied until you’ve solved your injury prevention puzzle. By putting these programs in place you’ll experience enigmatological ecstasy and create the maximum injury prevention for your organization and its employees!

Download your free book on injury prevention.

When are Physical abilities test best performed  





Topics: Pre Employment Screening

Deborah Lechner

Written by Deborah Lechner

Deborah Lechner, ErgoScience President, combines an extensive research background with 25-plus years of clinical experience. Under her leadership, ErgoScience continues to use the science of work to improve workplace safety, productivity and profitability.