Occupational Therapy Firm Fit For Work Taps Into Shale Demand

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Schertz-based occupational therapy consultant Fit For Work next week will open a location to serve the booming Eagle Ford Shale oil-and-gas play.

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"Eighty-three percent of the people we see on-site for early intervention never need to go into the health care system. It's all about prevention and early intervention."

The office ­— in Jourdanton, half an hour south of San Antonio — will provide pre-employment tests to make sure job applicants are capable of carrying out the physically demanding work in the shale’s oil fields. It also will offer worker health interventions, safety training and other services.

“We already have four clients in the Eagle Ford Shale we’re doing business with, and they expressed an interest in having an office closer to where they operate,” says Fit For Work partner Tom Tobin. "When we open our doors, we'll be doing 30 to 40 employee tests a week."

The new location - Fit For Work's second company-owned facility- will open next week with three employees but will expand to as many as ten by the end of the year based on its projected workload, Tobin says. The majority of the hires will be licensed occupational and physical therapists.

Tobin declined to identify his company's Eagle Ford clients, but says it conducts work for a variety of San Antonio-area businesses, including H-E-B Grocery Co., Frito-Lay North America and Checks in the Mail Inc.

Tobin wouldn't reveal the company's revenues.

Fit For Work employs 22 people company wide. In addition to its company-operated facilities, it has partner rehab centers in San Antonio and Austin. It also licenses its therapy programs to other occupational health providers in the Midwest and on the East Coast.

Curbing health costs

Increasingly, employers are eager to curb health care costs by preventing on-the-job injuries, says Tobin, who provided occupational therapy services for H-E-B and Diamond Shamrock before starting Fit For Work 14 years ago with partner Keith Adamson, a former therapist for Frito-Lay.

Often that means hiring an outside firm such as Fit For Work to test new hires and conduct preventative therapy and ergonomics for workers so they don't end up in a physician's care.

"Eighty-three percent of the people we see on-site for early intervention never need to go into the health care system," Tobin says. "It's all about prevention and early intervention."

Fit For Work tailors its programs to companies' specific job requirements, Tobin adds. It also conducts testing in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations.

In 2011, 4,726 occupational therapists became newly registered in the U.S., up from 3,444 registrations in 2009, according to Bethesda, Md.-based American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).

Many companies, spurred on by the stringent requirements in the ADA, began turning to outside therapy firms to conduct pre-employment screenings, says AOTA board member Paul Fontana, owner of the Center for Work Rehabilitation in Lafayette, La.

And interest in occupational therapy has increased in recent years as employers realize preventative programs are good for the bottom line, adds Fontana, who conducts work for oil-and -gas firms, including BP and Transocean Ltd.

"They've started to realize these programs are good for employees, but they also make financial sense," he says.

About Fit For Work:
Fit for Work is a privately held Occupational and Industrial Health practice developed around a model of prevention and early intervention. Founded in 1998, Fit for Work has continuously sought to provide large and small employers alike with a non-traditional service model. This model combines a progressive approach to injury prevention and treatment based on an underlying and proven principle that putting the right worker in the right place in as safe a manner as possible results in decreased costs, decreased injuries, increased profitability and increased productivity. For more information, please visit wellworkforce.com.

For the original version on the San Antonio Business Journal visit:http://www.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/print-edition/2012/01/27/occupational-therapy-firm-fit-for-work.html

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