It’s no secret that working in construction can be hard on your body. You may be handling heavy materials, lifting, stretching, digging… sometimes in sub zero temperatures, sometimes in pouring rain or blistering heat. You may be working high above the ground and be at risk of falling, or on uneven ground and be at risk of trips and twisted ankles.
Impact of musculoskeletal injuries for construction workers
Injuries on construction sites are common and in some cases they can be devastating. They may require physical therapy or surgery and, depending on the type and extent of the injury, there may be a permanent loss of strength or movement.
They may affect your income both short-term and long-term and there may be a significant impact on your quality of life, particularly as you age. If you are an employer, you may face compensation claims and the loss of valuable workers.
But musculoskeletal pain and injuries needn’t be an inevitability for construction workers if you take care to protect yourself.
As consultant radiologists we regularly see the damaged caused by poor working practices. These are some of our top tips for ensuring you don’t end up injuring yourself on a construction site…
Be aware of the risks
Rather than resulting from a single incident, musculoskeletal damage is often the result of regular, repeated strains and injuries. While a few aches and pains at the end of the day are normal, it is helpful to distinguish activities that pose an ongoing risk.
- lifting heavy loads
- working in an uncomfortable position
- making regular repetitive movements
- and having to exert a lot of force
Adopt safer working practices
Soft tissue injuries affect the muscles, tendons and ligaments and they are normally due to strain or overwork. Shoulder and hand injuries are particularly common among construction workers, as are lower back problems.
Carrying heavy equipment puts a strain on the lower back and if this is accompanied by twisting or repetitive movements, injuries can easily occur particularly if working in cold temperatures.
One of the ways to avoid this is by warming up the muscles and soft tissues before starting work. A good way to do this is by stretching, as you might do before an exercise class.
Utility safety consultant and affiliate instructor at Georgia Tech Research Institute, Danny Raines, said some companies have seen a reduction in injuries of up to 30% by introducing stretching exercises before work and during the day.
Another way is to adjust your posture so that you are not placing an undue strain on your body. If there is already pain, it is important to identify what is causing it and to assess if adjustments can be made to prevent continued injury.
Thinking ahead is a good practice to get into. If you have to dig a hole, for example, consider where you will throw the dug-out earth to avoid too much twisting and assess whether you need equipment so you don’t have to make too many repetitive movements.
Ergonomics is the idea of designing job tasks, processes, equipment and the working environment to prevent injury and damage. There is plenty of information available on ergonomic working practices as well as equipment to support you, such as lower back braces to prevent injury.
Often, avoiding musculoskeletal damage at work is simply a case of being aware of the potential risks and working smarter rather than making major changes to your working environment or practices.
If you are experiencing pain as a result of your work or you have injured yourself, contact us to discuss the range of diagnostic tests to identify the cause of your pain. This is the first step towards recovery.