UC Davis Reduces the No. 1 Injury to Fleet Technicians

September 2005, Government Fleet - Feature

by Tom Johnson

The dilemma for Barbara Greene, fleet manager, University of California, Davis, was that her technicians were excessively absent from work because of the high frequency of back injuries while on the job.Greene’s fleet department had already won three Larry Goill Awards for innovation presented by the National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA). The country’s first “green” university and the third ASE Blue-Seal-certified university, UC Davis was named one of the 10 best fleets in America under Greene’s management after her 31 years with the university.Employing a Voluntary Fitness Program for Technicians
The No. 1 injury to technicians is back injuries. A technician’s back muscles are more vulnerable because of the heavy lifting, bending, and stooping necessary for the job. Before opting for a voluntary employee fitness program, UC Davis, Fleet Services, experienced a 64-percent sick-leave usage rate - too high for management to keep work flowing in the shop. A study by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed that regular participation in an employee fitness program reduced the sick-day frequencies.“I have noticed an increase in morale, energy, strength, and productivity,” said Mitch Roath, a day shift technician.The university’s human resources department was interested in reducing workers’ comp incidents in an aging workforce. This program helped provide techs extra flexibility and endurance necessary to thrive in the industry. In addition, it raised awareness of overall health related to diet and exercise.“My body feels better on a regular basis. I notice how stiff I get when I don’t stretch. After a weekend of not stretching, we can feel the difference,” said Jay Chase, an evening shift technician.UC Davis’ fleet fitness program instituted stretching and weight-training using certified weight machines. The university purchased used weight equipment for less than $4,000 and provided an onsite personal trainer. The voluntary program consists of stretching and weight lifting three days per week and “walking and talking” two days a week.“We are in many different positions working on large vehicles. Working in the pit really affects our lower back and neck. We work on these areas in our stretching,” said Dale Hendricks, a heavy-duty technician. “The other day I was lying across the engine compartment on a large truck and I could feel it in my lower back and knees. I remembered the time when I didn’t do the weights and stretching and remembered how I felt afterwards. I paid for it for a week or two,” he said.Using Incentives as a Motivational Tool
To promote the program, “fleet bucks” were given to participants, who earned additional fleet bucks by not using sick leave during a calendar month. A maximum of three fleet bucks per week could be earned for participating in the exercise program. A fleet buck monitor was present during activities and verified staff members were present at the event and performed the exercise.Fleet bucks can be redeemed for items such as clothing. Residual program benefits include the ability to measure what needs to be improved using an incentive to motivate employee performance and providing recognition for work well done.“The bottom line is these people know we care about their welfare. How we treat our people is also how we achieve high degrees of innovation, efficiency, effectiveness, and quality of service in our balanced business lives,” said Greene.

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