Iowa construction workers, as well as construction workers all across America, face a higher risk of developing a musculosketal disorder than do all other workers combined. A recent study conducted by the Center for Construction Research and Training concluded that back injuries represent 40 percent of all construction injuries and cost over $46 million in lost wages in 2014. Older construction workers and those on the job for more than five years are particularly at risk for back injuries.
Construction workers are constantly exposed to back injury risks because they often are required to lift and/or carry heavy loads, maintain awkward postures and repeat the same body movements over and over again. Over time, such activities cause the body to become chronically fatigued, losing its ability to recover from each successive injury. Resulting back injuries and conditions can include such things as ligament sprains, tendon and muscle strains, tendonitis (inflammation of the tendons) and degenerative disc disease.
Minimizing the risk
The Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health recommends that construction workers use the following techniques to minimize the risk of back injury:
- Keep floors, sidewalks and walkways dry and free of anything that could be tripped over.
- Never lift a load weighing over 50 pounds without the assistance of a coworker.
- Use a cart, hoist, forklift or dolly to move heavy loads whenever possible.
- Keep any lifted or carried load as close to the body as possible.
- Use smooth and steady movements rather than jerking or twisting when lifting or lowering things.
- Take frequent rest breaks to avoid becoming overly fatigued.
In addition, they should use handled carrying tools when moving unwieldy things such as wallboard. Finally, they should remember not to bend over when picking something up from the floor. Instead, they should kneel down on one knee and pull the load on top of the other knee before standing up. If possible, they should lean against a wall or other supportive structure during the lifting process.