In 2014 I was very fortunate to be a member of the Australian Athletics team for the World Relay Championships in the Bahamas. Whilst watching the 4x400 team warm-up, I noticed several Kenyan middle distance runners warming-up on the grass, with no shoes, running at the same pace as their coach… who was walking alongside them!
After they had finished, I wandered over to ask their coach about the snails-paced running, and he simply answered — “they enjoy the feel of it, and they are the experts”. As the conversation continued, I discovered he had coached the majority of Kenya’s best athletes, and his belief was that each individual runner is the expert in how they move. He knew it was his job to coach them in a way that would allow them to use their own expertise to achieve an optimal result.
When creating injury prevention programs for the workplace, “experts” are often brought in to create programs with the intention of reducing the injury risk for the workers. However, very rarely are the workers involved in the creation of these programs. Very rarely are they asked if a methodology or product will work.
Think about it. When you have an individual who has been completing a certain work task, day-in, day-out, for years and years, they are the experts.
Over the past few years, the Preventure team has taken the Kenyan coach’s approach to workplace injury prevention — helping workers use and showcase their expertise to achieve positive, and lasting, safety changes.
We measure the physical demands of the work task using wearable technology and video to provide insight into injury risks. We also collect movement data from workers (the experts) of different ages and physical capacity.
We then involve them in the co-design of safety training modules, enabling the workers and their supervisors to collaborate and create a training program that leverages the expertise of their peers to change habits and reduce injury risk.
The outcome? The workers feel valued, are engaged with the program, and have a sense of ownership over what that they have created. The content is relevant to the occupation and site, and features the experts themselves!