Manufacturing plants are safer, more productive and can experience reduced healthcare costs by implementing on-site clinics.

By Dr. Chad Henriksen (DC), Director of WorkSiteRight at Northwestern Health Sciences University

There is no shortage of change in the manufacturing industry today. Operations are evolving to embrace more advanced technologies and human resources struggle to shore up headcount with tens of thousands of baby boomers eyeing retirement every day. On top of these massive initiatives, the industry, which has often offered generous benefits packages, also faces an evolution when it comes to employee healthcare offerings as we learn more about the long-term effects of this work on the body.

The industrial workplace can be dangerous. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks manufacturing as the third most dangerous occupation for workers based on the numbers of non-fatal injuries. According to a recent survey, these injuries cost the industry nearly $147 million each week. Overexertion and repetitive motions make up for nearly 31% of these costs.

For workers that engage in highly repetitive motions, heavy lifting, persistent walking or standing for hours at a time, these actions take a toll on the body. Repetitive motions like pulling a lever or filling a mold can cause severe injuries over long periods. In both cases, the result is both short- and long-term recovery days off for employees. Human resources and benefits managers at manufacturers across the country are turning to a more proactive approach for employee health.

On-site clinics can result in reduced employee injuries, less employee absenteeism and lower employee health insurance premiums.
On-site clinics can result in reduced employee injuries, less employee absenteeism and lower employee health insurance premiums.

In the last five years, manufacturers such as Fairmont Homes and Solar Plastics have added on-site natural care clinics to the workplace to help employees recover from minor injuries or persistent pain before they become a bigger problem. And while popularity is on the rise, especially among medium and small-sized manufacturers, on-site clinics have become more than a health benefit that excites and draws in new hires; they’ve also been proven to lead to positive health outcomes and decrease medical expenses for the company and employee.

On-site clinics come in several forms and include complementary and integrative healthcare such as chiropractic, massage, educational and motivational services, balance and workstation assessment. Employees are empowered to utilize the services as the provider offering has no out-of-pocket cost to them and is available during working hours. These services are also known to bridge the gap between information and taking action in one’s health, often resulting in reduced stress, improved mental, movement and physical well-being.

While the costs of investments for employee health and wellness are typically regarded as overheads, leaders should consider the long-term positive impacts, including reduced healthcare costs and injuries, absenteeism and dependency on pain killers.

Reduced Healthcare Costs and Injuries

With on-site care, a chiropractor can help identify, educate and correct improper movements or lifting, other potential risks or underlying symptoms before the problem occurs or becomes more severe. For example, a mild shoulder strain is easier to treat and less costly than a rotator cuff tear. Treating injuries reactively may require surgery, lost time from work, lost productivity, high medical expenses, and more. Some on-site clinics have experienced up to a $4 cost savings for every $1 invested in on-site care; others have benefitted from a 63% reduction in workplace injuries after implementation.

Reduced absenteeism or presenteeism

Unengaged employees cost the U.S. between $438 billion to $605 billion a year in lost productivity, but experts say health benefits can move the needle by reducing burnout, stress and underlying health conditions. Unlike a desk job, when employees are unengaged or distracted on a manufacturing site, life-altering accidents can occur.

By proactively addressing health concerns and promoting wellness, employees will be less distracted by aches and pains that hinder their full performance. Chiropractic and other complementary care models can reduce the impact of those annoyances and can positively impact employees’ mental health.

Reduced drug dependency

By focusing on prevention and early intervention, clinicians can address health issues before addictive, and often expensive prescription drugs are needed. Chiropractic treatment is an ideal first option for drug-free and non-invasive back and general neuro-musculoskeletal pain management. Research has shown that prescribing opioids excessively and too early after a workplace injury can lead to additional risks for both the worker and employer, like drug dependence and extended recovery time from home. This is particularly important to consider now as some studies have shown that the millions of Americans that overuse opioids are at a higher risk due to COVID-19.

While initially an expense, on-site care clinics are a direct investment in employees. Programs are adaptable for business and employee headcounts of all sizes. With a smaller capital investment and scalable resources, small-to-medium-sized businesses can reap huge returns on this attractive benefit.

For these reasons and more will continue to see this model of care become more prevalent in the industry and incorporated by both large and small businesses.

chad henriksen worksiteright
Dr. Chad Henriksen

Dr. Chad Henriksen
Director of Worksite Right at Northwestern Health Sciences University
Dr. Chad Henriksen has provided over 30,000 hours of on-site health and wellness services to various industries including seminars, ergonomic consultations, health and safety workshops, and injury prevention programs. His approach to health and wellness has a proven track record resulting in employee benefits and corporate cost savings.

In his current position as Director of WorkSiteRight at Northwestern Health Sciences University, Dr. Henriksen is responsible for overseeing health, wellness and safety services to employers. This includes employee education, ergonomic work, on-site care facilities and wellness program coordination. He also serves as an instructor for the NWHSU’s postgraduate Occupational Health program.