Construction work is booming. The latest figures show that in the first five months of this year, construction spending is up almost seven percent compared to the same time period last year. The result is that construction laborers are in such high demand that there aren’t enough workers to go around in many parts of the country. Adding to this problem is that many skilled workers who found other jobs after the recession have not yet returned to the industry, causing a shortage of workers with previous construction experience.
“In times like these, maintaining the health and safety of LIUNA members on the job becomes even more important. LIUNA members bring skills and knowledge to the jobsite that come from years of experience, training and a strong work ethic,” says LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni. “Making sure these workers remain healthy and injury free is the best way to keep projects moving along safely, on time and on budget.”
This is why it’s important to take workers into consideration when designing a worksite. Ergonomic measures that reduce the likelihood for musculoskeletal injuries help ensure the safety of all workers on site. When combined with good housekeeping practices, these simple jobsite changes improve worker safety and health along with productivity. These measures include:
- Storing materials close to where they will be used and are easy to access (e.g., at ground level or not above shoulder height).
- Making sure walkways are level and clear to reduce the likelihood of falls and to ensure carts and dollies can be easily used.
- Tools and Equipment
- Use ergonomically-designed tools that are lighter in weight, require less force to operate, fit the hand better and are more comfortable to use.
- When available, use handles when carrying loads.
- Use hand trucks, wheelbarrows to move materials
- Use protective equipment like knee pads and shoulder pads to reduce the contact stresses of kneeling or carrying materials.
- Train workers and supervisors to identify injury hazards and methods to avoid them (e.g., getting help when handling heavy loads and setting weight limits above which help is required).
- Invest in training and building worker skills and competencies at all age and experience levels.
- Provide health promotion and lifestyle interventions including physical activity, tobacco cessation assistance and health fairs. Accommodate medical self-care in the workplace.
The LHSFNA’s OSH Division can provide guidance for designing a worksite that can help protect worker safety and health. This includes an onsite evaluation. For more information and to schedule a visit from our expert staff, call 202-628-5465.
The Fund has also developed a number of materials that can educate workers and signatory contractors on how to keep worksites safe. These include the A Clean Site Is a Safe Site poster and the Choosing Safer Hand Tools in Construction pamphlet. These and other health and safety materials can be ordered by going to www.lhsfna.org and clicking on Publications.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]