This article originally appeared in Freight Waves.
Because the logistics industry has multiple job descriptions that include demanding physical labor, musculoskeletal injuries like back spasms and shoulder wounds are a common occurrence. Workplace injuries are difficult – not just for workers but also for the companies that employ them, because injuries often mean direct costs for the businesses in terms of worker’s compensation, as well as the indirect costs associated with these injuries such as delays in work schedules and replacement hassles.
Worklete, a San Francisco-based startup, seeks to shoulder the responsibility for getting front-line logistics workers to reduce workplace injuries. Worklete does this by imparting certain habits in workers that will help them focus on their body movement and the way they interact with the environment in order to avoid injuries.
Benjamin Kanner, the co-founder and CEO of Worklete, remarked that the idea behind Worklete is a continuation of the life’s work of his dad, who was a safety consultant for firefighters. Over the course of a career that spanned 30 years, his father trained more than 10,000 firefighters on how to avoid musculoskeletal injuries caused while pulling heavy objects, throwing ladders and the other labor-intensive work that the job demands.
“What I wanted to do was to take the underlying core principles of human movement and the interaction a person has with his environment to keep himself safe, and leverage technology to make sure the message reaches thousands of workers on a daily basis, instead of reaching them over a 30-year period,” Kanner said.
Kanner explained that workplace injuries are not necessarily restricted to physically demanding jobs, and Worklete’s messages also apply to people who have a desk job. He explained that even if a person sits in an ergonomically designed chair, if his posture is poor, it is going to cause problems in the long run.
“It is the same with freight or manufacturing-related jobs. You could have the best engineering and ergonomics at the workplace, but if the interaction is improper, you are not going to get any benefit from it. You can be the strongest or the most flexible guy in the room and still move or muscle stuff around poorly and set yourself up for injury,” said Kanner.
Worklete’s unique proposition lies in the way it leverages technology to bring this awareness to people on a large scale. “We have brought these rules to human movements down to a level that is easy to understand, easy to teach and easy to create habits around. Through our platform, we’re able to deliver content to every individual frontline employee, in a consistent and repetitive way, which over time will help them create and retain good habits,” said Kanner.
Worklete also gathers data from the exercise, noting the improvements that people make, their frequency of interaction with the platform and the marked reduction in injury numbers. The company uses the data to make correlations on how effective the platform has been in reducing injuries to the workforce, and in improving its system – giving it a competitive edge in the market.
The company has around 50 clients now, including Penske Logistics, Nestle Waters and Hub Group Trucking. “We get great feedback from our high-level stakeholders. We see a huge reduction in injuries across the board, averaging a 55 percent reduction in what we call the preventable work injuries,” said John Post, co-founder and CPO at Worklete. “Even outside the frontline users, 97.22 percent of our users felt they were safer after learning Worklete techniques, and 95 percent either like or love the techniques and felt they found value in them.”
Kanner explained how Worklete’s training methods are parallel to the way athletes train. The Worklete platform holds short learning modules that build consistency over time for people to develop habits. “We also train the frontline supervisors, as they have a better eye for this stuff and also can create a cultural change in the organization. Safety is all about culture,” Kanner said. “After our seminars, these supervisors go back to work and teach their peers and subordinates, helping facilitate in-person practice sessions. Workers can get real-time feedback, and it helps them get much better with their movement.
Kanner pointed out that Worklete’s processes were derived from behavioral science – the same steps that went into training athletes to get better at their sport. “Athletes train their entire life to be the best at what they do. They are working on their movements and their reaction to the environment. It turns out that what we do is a corollary to how athletes work,” he said.