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Ergonomics and Construction — The Smart Move

Alternate description

Sprains and strains — back, shoulder, knee and other musculoskeletal problems — are the most common injuries in the construction industry. These musculoskeletal (muscle, joint and bone) injuries make up over one-third of all lost workday injuries and produce about half of all compensation claims.

In a recent survey, 40 percent of construction workers said "working hurt" is a major problem. Working hurt reduces productivity, but continuing to work hurt can result in disabling injuries that end a career. Many Laborers retire by age 55 because they just can't do the work anymore. Many can't enjoy their retirement because of their disabilities.

Alternate description

Ergonomics means finding ways to work easier and just as productive.  It means working smarter, not harder. Ergonomic changes, generally, are not expensive and can be very simple. They include:

Planning

  • Plan the job to minimize manual handling of heavy materials — make sure crane time is available, forklifts are used maximally and materials are delivered and stored close to where they will be used.
  • Store materials so they are accessible and easier to access (e.g., not above shoulder height or at ground level) but not in the way of on-going work .
  • Make sure walkways are even and clear so carts and dollies can be easily employed.

Tools and Equipment

  • Use better, ergonomically-designed tools which may be lighter weight, require less force to operate, fit the hand better and more comfortable to use.
  • Use carts, dollies and hoists rather than brute strength to move materials.
  • Use handles when carrying loads.
  • Use protective equipment like knee pads and shoulder pads to reduce the contact stresses of kneeling or carrying materials.

Cooperation

  • Get help when needed to handle heavy loads — some companies set weight limits (like 50 pounds) above which a helper is required.
  • Organize stretching programs before work begins each day.

Materials

  • Use lighter materials, such as lighter weight block.

Training

  • Train workers and foremen to identify ergonomic risks and common solutions.

Alternate description

Most important is setting up an "ergonomics process" — a regular time, perhaps during safety meetings, to talk about ergonomic issues, get ideas about how jobs could be improved, test suggestions and decide if they were real improvements.

Companies are looking at sprain and strain solutions because it makes business sense even in the absence of an OSHA regulation. The LHSFNA Occupational Safety and Health Division staff can help contractors and members evaluate ergonomic solutions for any worksite.

Ergonomic Resource Links

 

LIUNA-Related Resources

Ergonomics & Construction - the Smart Move (LHSFNA)

Tip Sheets for Concrete Construction (LHSFNA)

Hand trowels
Rubber boots
Insoles for rubber boots
Body mechanics/positioning
Slump
Laser screeding
Roller screeding
Vibratory screeding
Applicator Wand
Georgia Buggy
Light Pole
Teamwork

Trade-Specific Fact Sheets (Mason Tenders)

Asbestos Abatement
Fireproofing
Hand Tools
Hazardous Waste
Lead Abatement
Material Handling
Plaster Tending
Power Tools
Scaffold Erection

Back Pain (NJLHSF)

 

Spanish Language

Cuando Trabaje en Obras de Construccion (CPWR)

Guia Ergonomica de Supervivencia para Capinteros y Armadores (CALOSHA)

Guia Ergonomica de Supervivencia para Obreros (CALOSHA)

Guia Ergonomica de Supervivencia para Albaniles (CALOSHA)

Guia Ergonomica de Supervivencia para Electricistas (CALOSHA)

Guia Ergonomica de Supervivencia para Trabajadores del Metal Laminado (CALOSHA)

Clares de Exito y Seguridad para el Capataz de Construccion (CALOSHA)

Soluciones Simples - Soluciones ergonómicas para trabajadores de la construcción (NIOSH Pub. 2007-122/SP 2009)

Torceduras y Desgarres en la Construccion/Colocacion de Piedra (OSHA video)

Canada

Construction Safety Association of Ontario

Musculoskeletal Injuries in the Masonry Trade

Back Care and Materials Handling in Construction (CASO)

Back Care Program

Rebar-Tying Machines (Part I)

Getting a Grip - Concrete Block Design

Manual Materials Handling

Musculoskeletal Disorders. What are the causes and controls in construction?

Overhead Drilling Project (UCSF video)

Research Report on Trowel Sizes for Brick Masons

Musculoskeletal Disorders: Awareness (Canadian Centre for OSH)

Constructive Ideas (Workers' Compensation Board of British Columbia)

Support for overhead drilling
Hammer drill support arm
Rebar tying tool
Repetition and excessive force
Back belts in construction
What are MSIs?
Contact stress in construction work
Lifting and your back
How much can I lift?
Selecting hand tools in construction trades
Pushing and pulling on a construction site
Safe manual handling tips for construction workers
Awkward posture and excessive force
MSI risk factors
Hand tool ergonomics
Assessing the risk of sprains and strains
Drywall delivery safety access hatch
Safe drywall delivery options for prime contractors
Reduce your risk of back injury – let your equipment do the work
Overcome the “Don’t sit on the job” attitude and your body will thank you
Using a pipe carriage prevents back, shoulder, and wrist fatigue
Suspending tools prevent back, arm, and shoulder fatigue
Balanced tool belts can start your back off in the right position
Job rotation gives the body a break
How to get through a day's work and still have something left over
Reducing soft tissue injuries

 

American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

ANSI Construction Ergonomics Standard

 

CPWR – Center for Construction Research and Training

Choosing Safer Handtools in Construction (CPWR)

Construction Chart Book - Back Injuries (CPWR)

Musculoskeletal Disorders in Construction (CPWR)

Cuando Trabaje en Obras de Construccion (CPWR)

 

Occupational and Industrial Orthopaedic Center (OIOC)

Ergonomics Working: Cement and Concrete Construction Workers (OIOC)

Ergonomics Working: Heavy and Highway Construction Laborers (OIOC)

Safe Patient Handling & Movement

 

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Construction Ergonomics Workshop (Best Practices Conference - 1997)

Ergonomic Guidelines for Manual Material Handling

Simple Solutions:  Ergonomics for Construction Workers

Better Backs in Construction

Reducing Work-Related Muscluoskeletal Disorders among Rodbusters

Soluciones Simples - Soluciones ergonómicas para trabajadores de la construcción (NIOSH Pub. 2007-122/SP 2009)

 

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA Ergonomics Page

Ergonomics Solutions for Electrical Contractors

Advisory Committee for Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH documents)

Sprains and Strains Prevention (OSHA Alliance)

Prevention of Strains, Sprains and Material Handling Injuries in Construction (OSHA Alliance)

Sprains and Strains in Construction/Laying Stone (OSHA video)

 

State Resources

 

California Dept. of Health Services

Drywall Installers: Prevent Back, Wrist, Neck and Shoulder Injuries

Pavement Breaker Operators: Prevent Back, Joint and Muscle Injuries

 

California OSHA

Construction Foreman - an Ergonomic Approach to Cost Reduction (CALOSHA)

Ergonomic Survival Guide for Carpenters and Framers (CALOSHA)

Ergonomic Survival Guide for Cement Masons (CALOSHA)

Ergonomic Survival Guide for Electricians (CALOSHA)

Ergonomic Survival Guide for Laborers (CALOSHA)

Ergonomic Survival Guide for Sheet Metal Workers (CALOSHA)

Guide to Selection of Non-Powered Hand Tools (CAL/OSHA and NIOSH)

Keys to Success for Construction Foremen (CALOSHA)

Guia Ergonomica de Supervivencia para Capinteros y Armadores (CALOSHA)

Guia Ergonomica de Supervivencia para Obreros (CALOSHA)

Guia Ergonomica de Supervivencia para Albaniles (CALOSHA)

Guia Ergonomica de Supervivencia para Electricistas (CALOSHA)
Guia Ergonomica de Supervivencia para Trabajadores del Metal Laminado (CALOSHA)

Clares de Exito y Seguridad para el Capataz de Construccion (CALOSHA)

 

Massachusetts: Bright Ideas (UMASS LOWELL)

BINFORD CRAB CLAMP
CRANE MIRROR
PIPE WRENCH STAND
SPATULA FOR TILEWORKERS
TRAILER LIFT
IRONWORKER'S BOX
McGOVERN LEVER

 

Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation

Ergonomics Best Practices for the Construction Industry

Grout Delivery System

Scaffolding

Scaffold Handling

 

Oregon OSHA

Safe Lifting Calculator

Protect Your Back and Your Future

Protect Your Shoulders and Your Neck and Your Future

Protect Your Knees and Your Future

 

Washington State Department of Labor and Industry

Ergonomics Idea Bank

Demonstration Project Reports

CONCRETE WORK
MASONRY
MECHANICAL
RESIDENTIAL
WALLBOARD

 

International Ergonomic Resources

Handling Heavy Blocks (Britain)

Guidelines on Physical Workload for the Construction Industry (Holland)

Ergonomie bei Bauarbeitten (Germany)