Virtually all auto plants have medical offices, but Saturn Corp. has upped the dosage at its Spring Hill, Tenn., factory.
A $3 million factory addition gives Saturn workers five-day-a-week access to relief for aching or injured muscles. Besides a full-time physical therapy staff of four, the center expands the plant's medical services with ambulance docks, X-ray machines, equipment for responding to heart attacks and other resources.
'Other than being in a hospital, this is probably the best place to have a medical emergency,' says Dr. Stan Miller, the automaker's medical director.
More than half of the 16,000-square-foot center will be used for physical therapy for work-related injuries. The center gives Saturn's 8,500 workers access to free walk-in treatments with whirlpools, sitz baths, treadmills, weight equipment and range-of-motion equipment.
'We've spent millions on ergonomics in the plant to prevent injuries, but they still happen,' Miller says.
One year ago, 77 workers sued the company for discriminating against injured workers. The suit, now pending in U.S. District Court in Columbia, Tenn., faults the automaker for not providing less demanding jobs to employees with physical limitations due to work injuries.
The center marks another offbeat employee-benefit step for the General Motors subsidiary. Saturn opened a 24-hour-a-day child-care center on the factory grounds in 1991. Last year, the company began paying tuition costs for employees' children to attend local technical colleges.
When building the plant in the late 1980s, Saturn took special care to install springy birch flooring along the assembly line to reduce muscle fatigue. The company adopted battery-powered hand tools to avoid injuries caused by the jerking motion of air-powered tools.
A Saturn spokeswoman said the new treatment center, opened this month, will let the company and employees save on medical costs. Until now, a worker with a muscle injury had to be transported to a nearby hospital for help. Personnel from a local medical center, Maury Regional Hospital, will operate the Saturn facility.
In early June, Saturn invited area physicians to the site to reassure them that the operation is not intended to siphon away business from the community's doctors and hospitals. Saturn is the largest employer in Maury County, Tenn.