Musculoskeletal ailments are common in surface treatment work. FSP has actively started tackling and preventing them, together with our occupational health service, with positive outcomes. Absences related to musculoskeletal problems have decreased, and good experiences have emerged for example from the direct reception of an occupational physiotherapist.
– Work positions in painting tend to be repetitive. Tensions typically occur around the shoulder area when hands are constantly clenching a paint spray, with the upper arm elevated, FSP’s HR Director Mari Rajakallio describes.
The strenuous nature of the work has already been noted in FSP many years ago, and the problem has been tackled together with occupational health service.
– We have been working on this with Terveystalo since 2004. We have a very good and functional team, and together we have created a nation-wide occupational health model for FSP, with special focus on the nature of surface treatment work, Rajakallio says.
– We have implemented the so called TULES care pathway, which is a care model focused on musculoskeletal issues, and the key indicators of work ability management
OPERATIVE MODELS FOR DIFFERENT SITUATIONS
Every FSP employee attends an occupational health check on a regular basis and has access to occupational health services whenever they need. In occupational health care, the main stress is in the specific challenges of the surface treatment industry.
– The TULES care pathway provides operative models for different situations at the workplace and in the employee’s everyday work. The idea is to prevent workrelated symptoms or, if they occur, to intervene as early as possible, says Kari Mölsä, coordinating occupational physician.
– The key idea here is to maintain the employee’s work ability, and resources have been focused so that we can have an optimal impact to that end.
In practice, TULES shows up as internal orientation guidelines that guide people towards correct working methods and to seek help if symptoms appear. In addition to preventing problems, operative models have been created for alternative and partial duties.
– Our occupational physiotherapist has played a key role in creating these operative models and we have had positive experiences from the physiotherapist’s direct consultation, Mölsä describes.
An occupational physiotherapist’s direct consultation means getting access to the physiotherapist without a doctor’s referral.
– Assessment is made when booking the appointment, says Jonas Turunen, coordinating occupational physiotherapist.
He says that the job description of an occupational physiotherapist is more diverse than a traditional physiotherapist’s.
– I am specialized in issues related to work load. Main emphasis of the treatment is not in manual treatments or tissue techniques, but rather in forming an extensive picture of the patient’s problem and solving it together with the patient, as comprehensively as possible.
A preliminary interview helps in figuring out the best cure.
– Our treatment model starts with focusing not only on symptoms, such as lower back pain, but having a wider conversation about the patient’s situation.
How are they managing at work, how do they sleep, how are they doing on their spare time?
Behind the symptom, there might be a reason related to work, everyday life or lifestyle, so it is important to have a wider scope beyond just the symptom. If necessary, I can write a certificate for sick leave or refer the patient to a doctor. Our goal is, however, that through my advice the patient would find the working and living habits to get rid of the problem, preferably without medication, Turunen explains.
He hopes that employees would not hesitate to contact the occupational physiotherapist.
– Nobody is required to know what kind of treatment they need. Still, we all are the best experts in how we are feeling, and the more openly we are able to tell about our situation, and the earlier we seek help, the better we will receive help.
Everything does not rely on the patient’s own description, and certain things can also be measured. Surface treatment professionals often take hand grip strength tests.
– Low hand grip strength is often mirrored in forearm of neck and shoulder problems. Muscular exercise and mobility exercise can help with these issues, as well as taking small micro breaks during the workday. An occupational physiotherapist’s direct consultation is quite a novel practice at FSP and elsewhere. First experiences have been positive.
– People are returning to work faster after a sick leave and they are taking less medication. The comprehensive approach and new practices have also prevented same problems from recurring. That is why I want to motivate people for permanent changes in their habits, Turunen says.
SMART CLOTHES AND AUTOMATICS
Different work situations and TULES care pathway models have been examined with supervisors and employees from many of FSP’s units. Technology has also been helpful. In certain units, work ergonomics measurements have been made with smart clothing.
– The garment measured working, and the process was also filmed, Jonas Turunen explains.
– Through smart clothing, we were able to get information on the activation levels of different muscular groups. We could also observe working postures and their duration in different work phases.
Now that we know exactly what the work load factors are, we can prevent excessive load through working methods guidelines, automation and for example allowing the surface treatment worker to adjust the height of the workpiece at the paint shop.
– Work ergonomics has been taken into account in the planning of our new facilities, Mari Rajakallio says.
EVERYBODY CAN IMPACT THEIR OWN WORK
Mari Rajakallio is happy that FSP has actively started to develop occupational health services and operative models.
– It is challenging to do physical work inside a pipe, out on a bridge, on one’s knees, for example. Surface treatment is the kind of work that requires support functions, she says.
In addition to working postures and environment, workplace atmosphere has a big impact on well- being at work. In that, openness and confidentiality play a key role.
– Managers have a great responsibility in ensuring that work progresses well but also that the people are feeling good at work, Jonas Turunen says.
– If you are open and active yourself, it is easier for others to openly share their thoughts.
Kari Mölsä thinks that the possibility to discuss issues related to well-being at work with an occupational physiotherapist is also a possibility to impact one’s own work.
– Working culture is evolving. When everybody can affect their own physical and mental well-being at work, they will feel better and work more efficiently. According to Mari Rajakallio, FSP is not only interested in work efficiency but also, and particularly, how employees are feeling, their well-being.
– We don’t want work to consume all of their strength. We want our employees to return home from work healthy every day, and also retire in good health one day.