As a construction worker, you frequently challenge your body to perform tasks that can cause disabling injuries to your muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments, cartilage, and spinal discs. These injuries have a direct impact on you physically by causing extreme pain, and financially by causing you to miss work.
A 2003 survey of heavy construction and highway laborers in New York revealed that construction workers experience some of the highest rates of work-related injuries to their muscles and joints. Sixty percent of the respondents to the survey said they had felt some discomfort in their joints during the past year. The most commonly reported injured area was the lower back; however, necks, shoulders, and knees were also areas that were frequently hurt while working.
In spite of the physical demands of your job, you don’t have to be an injury statistic. Researchers who specialize in ergonomics, the study of the interaction between the human body, and how work-related tasks impact on it, have found methods of lessening the number and severity of injuries. By changing the way tasks are performed, the job can become easier and safer.
Drawing from some of the latest ergonomic information regarding construction tasks, here are some tips to help you use body mechanics to avoid injury:
- Take a 30-minute mini-break to stretch out your hands when shoveling for long periods. Open your hands as wide as possible, and create as much space between your fingers as you can.
- Hold the shaft of the shovel so that your hand is in a palm up position.
- Adjust the handle size of your shovel so that its diameter comfortably fits the size of your hand. Use a handle grip attachment, if necessary.
- Face toward the direction you will throw the shoveled load to keep from twisting and straining your back.
- Work in a radius close to your body to avoid stretching and reaching while shoveling and digging.
- Don’t pick up more than 10 pounds with a shovel at one time.
- Select a tool with a flat blade for shoveling, and one with a round blade for digging.
- Use a handle length that allows you to keep your back as straight as possible to lessen back strain caused by excessive bending.
- Wear protective gear to keep cement from getting on the skin or clothing.
- Shovel ballast by stepping on the back end of the shovel blade as you push it in. Use a long handled pointed shovel.
- Wear shock absorbing shoe inserts when walking on ballast or concrete.
- Wear gloves to prevent blisters and calluses from developing on the hands.