Protecting workplace safety using research, practice and technology

August 2020

Founder and director of JobFit Systems Dr Jenny Legge

 

Imagine if workplace injuries were a thing of the past?

Mitigating injuries in a workplace is not as straightforward as you might think, but local businessperson Dr Jenny Legge is working hard to combine her practical experience with technology to make it simpler.  

Dr Jenny Legge is a physiotherapist and ergonomist who has spent her career helping Queenslanders with musculoskeletal problems get back into the workforce and grew frustrated at the amount of injuries she saw that could have been avoided.

“There are two stages to a risk assessment: you assess a person’s individual health risk then compare it against the physical requirements of the role.

“There’s lots of data that goes into a risk assessment from psycho-social influences to physical characteristics of the site, which means getting a full picture of a person’s health risks into a form that’s easily digestible for employers is a challenge,” Dr  Legge said.

Jenny wrote her PhD investigating the validity of pre-employment functional testing and found when there is a gap between what the worker can do and the actual requirements of a role, people are at greater risk of musculoskeletal injuries.

Dr Legge’s study of more than 600 workers over seven years found when workers didn’t meet the physical requirements of a role, they were three times more likely to encounter a musculoskeletal injury and 5.8 times more likely to have a back injury while handling heavy objects.

Her research has helped employers sharpen the focus of their risk assessments, but Jenny still saw an opportunity for how health data was being collected and managed.

“Typically, when a health professional assesses the workplace, they write a 12-page report detailing the work done on-site. 

“Then when they assess the worker’s physical health, they can write anything from a two-line summary to another 12-page report often using a different set of words, making it even more difficult to make accurate recommendations,” Dr Legge said.

Jenny immediately saw a gap in the market between the tools being used and what she was advocating for her clients, so she began working on new technology that could address both the collection and management of workplace injury assessments. 

Jenny started by physically writing two sets of data needed to make accurate predictions on transparent sheets of paper. She then overlapped them to see where the gaps were and began highlighting the requirements for her own software.

After several iterations and grants to help kick-start her technology, Jenny finally developed software that stored workplace job demands and worker’s individual health data to make accurate predictions about their workplace injury risk. It’s called the JobFit System.

Jenny’s experience in the industry provided her with the connections needed to sell her new product which quickly grew into an international business with patents in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, USA and Europe.

“I knew exactly how the technology should operate but didn’t know anything about intellectual property, business development or managing a remote team of software engineers.

“I ended up closing my practice to concentrate on the business full-time which has now grown from a services business that uses technology into a technology company, trading our IP to companies around the world,” Dr Legge said.    

Although her software standardises the physical side of the assessment, allied health professionals are still needed to manage the return to work process and the social impacts that Jenny believes are also a strong predictor of workplace injury outcomes.

“What happens in people’s homes can have a big impact on their performance and quality of life which also needs to be considered by health professionals and the workplace

“Our software augments rather than automates the evaluation. People are still needed to conduct the assessment and understand how different systems affect the risk profile of the employee,” Dr Legge said.

When asked about the next phase of her company’s growth, Jenny believes the pandemic has made video conferencing with her team and clients more acceptable, changing the way she’s approached some of the challenges of operating an international business from Mackay.

“Running business meetings over web conferencing is the new norm and workers have learned new skills to maintain the same quality of output while working remotely.

“My advice for anyone looking to start their own tech company is that there’s a real opportunity to improve workplaces digitally and this can be done by reaching out to the right people from your own home, so go for it,” Dr Legge said. 

 

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