With the final adoption of a voluntary sprain and strain standard for construction by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), ergo may begin to lose the four-letter word status it has had over the last decade due in part to opposition from skeptical contractor associations. The Fund hopes to accelerate this change through the publication of its new booklet, Laborers’ Guide to Preventing Sprains and Strains in Construction.

Ergo is short for ergonomics, the applied science of the way people and tools interact in safe and efficient manners. When those interactions don’t go well, people often suffer injuries to their muscles, bones, nerves, tendons or ligaments. On the other hand, if interactive situations are investigated and analyzed, it is likely that injuries can be avoided while the work is performed even more efficiently.

Data show that sprains and strains, particularly of the back, are the most common and costly injuries in construction. Yet, because these musculoskeletal injuries sometimes display no outward signs of trauma, some employers assert that workers fake them to get paid time off through workers’ compensation. Other employers assert that workers suffer these injuries at home or in recreation only to falsely claim a work injury.

“It is simply wrong to blame most sprain or strain injuries in construction on false claims,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “In fact, many workers continue to work in pain and never file for workers’ comp because they can’t afford to take time off. Construction work is hard, physical labor. It often involves lifting and moving, reaching in awkward ways, using heavy tools and equipment. Ergonomic injuries are common, but we can work smarter. Our goal is to find ways to minimize these injuries, both for the well-being of workers and for contractor’s bottom lines.”

The Fund’s new publication, available online, will get you to start thinking about the nature of these injuries and the ways they might be prevented. It provides practical, simple, inexpensive ways to “work smarter, not harder” to control these injuries and their costs.  The 14-page booklet is free to Laborers, local unions, training centers and participating LIUNA signatory employers. Also, the OSH Division’s Ergonomics and Construction website provides many other suggestions and resources.