Reach for your toes, reach for the sky, hold for 10 seconds…
This is what Louisville, Kentucky public works employees hear every morning before heading out on their routes.
Granted, it sounds a little odd. But a morning stretch is just one aspect of Louisville’s plan to prevent injuries among its garbage collectors. A little extra agility is never a negative, and over the past two years, city officials have been promoting it with their workers as well as incorporating it into their own policies.
January 2012 began with 32 percent of Louisville garbage collectors not working or having their duties limited due to serious injuries. Comparably, two years later in January 2014, that number was reduced to 15 percent. This staggering drop is a result of a three-part plan initiated by the city as part of its metrics-driven performance improvement.
Step one is the stretching routine that begins at 6 a.m. sharp every morning. Before the employees head out,  all of them — including administrators — join together for a wake-up stretch led by a different designated leader each day. In a circle, everyone participates in the toe touches, jumping jacks, and squats to prepare for the busy day ahead.
Step two is the Accident Review Committee. For the committee, every injury is important, and it reviews each one — leading to a list of suggested measures to prevent them from recurring. Their recommendations are passed to department management who then compiles a final list and passes it down to the staff.
The final step is the modified duty policy. Typically, a worker is out for six to ten weeks following a serious injury. This new policy, though, gives them the option to return to work after one week, performing less strenuous office work.
The beginning of 2012 also saw the formation of the Office of Performance Improvement whose greatest accomplishment is the establishment of the Louie Stat — which increases communication between the mayor and all city departments by holding regular meetings during which relevant metrics are reviewed and plans are established for future improvement.
Just like the workers who wake up every morning to stretch their muscles, Louisville city officials clearly have taken the extra step to expand their programs and influence to benefit their workers.