How back-related sick days at Mercedes-Benz factory dropped by 75%
The partnership between a Spanish health service company Athlon Koop and David Health Solutions has produced successful company prevention programs in Spanish factories including Mercedes-Benz and Renault, among others. This article focuses on the case of Mercedes-Benz and how a company prevention program powered by DAVID helped to improve the operations at their factories. Asier Viteri, Director of Athlon, discusses this program and its successful results.
The mission of Athlon is to improve the quality of life by empowering people to adopt and develop healthy habits. Athlon began the program with the Mercedes-Benz facilities in Vitoria, Spain in 2009. It is a reproduction the “Kraftwerk” company prevention program developed in Germany also using the David system. The main goals of the program were to reduce work absence due to back pain and help to promote workers’ health.
There was an evident need to protect workers at the Mercedes facilities in Vitoria against back problems. In fact, 70% of the workers had episodes of back pain at work. Of the reported injuries, 85% of them were ergonomic, or due to bad use of the back. In order to combat this, Athlon and Mercedes-Benz teamed up to educate and rehabilitate the factory workers. The program was set up to give workers necessary information on how to take care of their backs including education and ergonomics training. However, in order to help rehabilitate existing back problems and prevent future issues, the David Spine Concept was introduced.
The program targets every worker in the company so any interested worker can freely join the program. It normally lasts 16 weeks and begins with an initial test to create an individualized program for each worker. Every week the Mercedes-Benz worker gets 20 minutes free from work to visit the clinic facilities and exercise with the David devices. Here, a company therapist is on hand to motivate and provide feedback for the workers.
95% of Mercedes-Benz factory workers wanted to continue training with the Spine Concept program.
The program proved to be a great success in many different ways
A year into the program, an analysis was run on the data and feedback from the 950 workers who finished the program. On a quantitative level, there was an improvement in lumbar flexion and extension mobility. There was also an increase of 7-10% in back extension strength although the main focus was not to increase strength.
Sick days due to back pain were reduced by more than 75%.
The results for work absenteeism were astounding. During the first year, sick days due to back pain were reduced by more than 75%. This result was even greater for workers over the age of 55. Not only do the numbers show a significant improvement, but over 50% of workers also reported better overall health after the program. In fact, 91% of the workers felt the program to be effective in reducing back pain and 95% wanted to continue with the program.
Rewarding results requires full commitment
Asier Viteri stresses the importance of strong engagement for the company prevention program to work. “It is absolutely necessary to have full commitment from the plant directors and line officers. When a worker leaves for 20 minutes, it directly impacts the production line”. However, when commitment is achieved, the program can definitely yield positive results. Mercedes medical doctors who are directly involved in the program “are very happy with the program. Not only have work absence cases decreased significantly, but the investment was amortized in less than three years due to this decrease.”
Athlon is active in introducing this company prevention program to other factories in Spain. Since 2011, the program has been successfully implemented in IVECO, Renault, and MAHLE. This year, Athlon is excited to announce new company prevention sites, currently under development.
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