We are HealthFitness and we’re “better” people. We believe the best claim is the claim that doesn’t happen. That’s why we’re focused on prevention, to address health issues before they become more serious medical concerns.
Attending to pain and discomfort before the need for medical diagnosis is the number one goal for Cody Sage, Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) and his team as they focus on the health and safety of more than 3,000 manufacturing production workers at a leading appliance manufacturing company in Louisville, Kentucky.
As one of three ATCs on staff, Sage helps employees prevent, recognize and manage injuries and provides first aid and treatment for workers who have reported muscle soreness or discomfort. He also serves as a job coach and administers the company’s early intervention program, working with employees to find the root cause of pain and take corrective actions to prevent further discomfort or injury.
The ATC job is a natural fit for Sage—who previously worked as a college athletic trainer—and he seamlessly transitioned from helping college athletes to helping manufacturing workers. “This role is a perfect match for me because of my background in exercise science, knowledge of biomechanics, ergonomics, injury prevention and treatment,” he says. “My number one priority is to help the workers take better care of themselves.”
Mock production line, real results
True with many manufacturing populations, employees at the appliance company often deal with stress from standing for long periods, strain from heavy lifting and repetitive motion injuries. The company noticed an increasing trend in the number of injuries in new hires during their first year of employment.
For example, before being placed out on the line, new employees had little to no time to learn the work techniques or receive guidance in the most effective way to perform the tasks. In addition, new hires were deconditioned and using less than optimal safe work practices.
In order to reduce this trend, Sage and his team launched the company’s early intervention program for new hires using a three-hour mock production line. On their first day, new workers performed certain jobs as required on the manufacturing floor, but at a slower rate than the real manufacturing assembly line.
“The mock production line gives me time to coach the workers on the proper form for moving their body, why they should always report an injury early, and how to properly stretch using a stretch card as a reminder,” he says. “My goal is to teach people how to move better before they hit the floor.”
Not only are new hires ready for the manufacturing line, Sage is thrilled with the results: an 85 percent reduction in injuries for new hires.
Better programs for all ages
While Sage was on the assembly line talking to new hires, the more seasoned workers approached him and asked for tips. “The older workers wanted the same education and training that new hires were getting—they felt like they were missing out,” he says. “We realized our new hire health intervention program was a success the moment others started asking for it.”
To meet the needs of all workers, Sage is excited about the company’s new “Line Side Prevention” pilot program. This three-month program places Sage right where the action is—on the assembly line. “Instead of workers coming to us, we go out to the assembly floor,” he says, “It’s important to see workers on the job in their natural habitat and watch them do their job,” he says. “We work side-by-side with each worker and ask them how they are feeling or if they are hurting—we don’t wait until someone reports they are sore. We let them know we are there to help.”
Sage spends 5 to 10 minutes with each worker and is making his way through the 3,000 employees at the plant. He is confident the pilot program will be a success and become permanent for all workers on the floor—not just new hires.
In addition to injury prevention, Sage provides health and wellness education programs to the workers, including “Lunch and Learn” seminars around a variety of wellbeing topics. “At first, the workers came for the free lunch,” Sage says. “But they quickly discovered they were learning better ways of how to take care of their health—and they asked for more topics! So we presented sessions on stress management, healthy eating and safety. Now they attend first and foremost for the health topics—and then the lunch!”
A better listener
Sage also enjoys the one-on-one interaction with the workers. “When an employee reports an injury, I jump into action to apply ice, heat and massage—whatever they need,” he says. Sage works with the employee for two weeks, 30 minutes each day. “Together we work to relieve the muscle soreness and tightness, and then I go to their job site and provide movement tips for doing their job.”
Seeing workers improve each day serves as an inspiration for Sage as we walks the manufacturing floor. “People recognize me, they see the HealthFitness logo on my shirt, and they know that I am there to help,” he says. “I love seeing workers that I have treated. It feels great when they introduce me to their coworkers and say, ‘Hey, this is Cody. This guy fixed me—he’s a good guy.’ It doesn’t get better than that.”
Learn more: How can our people help your people be better? Connect with us to learn more.