- Sep 11, 2018
Construction work is a dynamic, diverse and constantly changing environment which requires the diligent protection of construction workers. While we typically focus on the dramatic physical hazards posed on a construction project, such as falls from height and dropped objects, we also need to be aware of the other various health hazards to which construction workers are potentially exposed.
Hazards can include the following key types:
- Chemical – including hazardous atmosphere in confined spaces, contaminated soil exposure, or the presence of hazardous substances on existing structures such as asbestos, silica, paint coatings containing lead or cadmium;
- Biological – involving the presence of mold or animal residue;
- Physical – such as loud noises created by tools.
While these are easily recognizable, there is a fourth type of hazard that is the most common and doesn’t receive enough recognition. Ergonomic hazards account for the most injuries that occur on a typical construction project.
Failure to recognize the safe and efficient interaction with tools and tasks in construction can lead to multiple injuries, including musculoskeletal disorders such as strains and sprains, tendonitis and lower back injuries. The number one cause of disabling injuries in construction is a back injury that occurs from an acute incident of improper lifting or improper repetitive lifting.
What construction ergonomic practices lead to injury?
- Heavy, frequent or awkward lifting;
- Repetitive tasks e.g. hammering;
- Awkward hand grip;
- Postures using excessive force; and
- Hand-intensive work.
How can ergonomic injuries be prevented?
- Have correct posture that uses the legs with a straight back, no twisting and no bending over;
- Consider the overall weight and configuration of lifted items;
- Stop to get additional assistance and use lift devices wherever possible;
- Break down the load into smaller units to lighten the individual load;
- Use ergonomically-designed tools with specially-designed hand grips for repetitive tasks;
- Switch hands periodically;
- Keep tools in top shape to avoid additional exertion when using them e.g. sharpened knives and drill bits that are in good condition;
- Use the right tools e.g. using a screw driver rather than a knife because the tool was not easily accessible;
- Stretch to warm up before work;
- Get adequate rest; and
- Maintain proper hydration.
Whether working on site, at your desk or at home, protecting yourself from ergonomic hazards is critical to avoiding both short- and long-term health impacts. Before any task, take the time to assess your environment, identify the hazards and determine the necessary protective measures to mitigate risk. Proactive and preventative methods will ensure your immediate safety and avoid injuries.