The leading cause of disabling injuries in the construction industry is overexertion. More than one-third of all workers’ compensation claims in construction, including specialty trades, are accounted by this factor. While sudden trauma injuries, such as falls, have a fast onset, overexertion can be caused by repeatedly handling materials improperly, which puts undue stress on the body’s soft tissues.
Manual material handling includes several tasks: lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, holding and carrying. This is why overexertion is such a common injury in construction. However, there are four primary reasons why workers become injured from overexertion:
- Workers twist or bend their backs while picking up materials.
- Workers hold materials too long.
- Workers frequently lift, hold and lower materials without taking a break.
- Workers hold materials too far away from the body.
To reduce overexertion injuries, several steps can be taken, including the following:
- Decide where you want to place materials in advance.
- Store materials off the ground to reduce the stress of bending and lifting.
- Never lift or carry more than 50 pounds without help.
- Bend at the knees and push legs upward when lifting.
- Hold materials close to the body.
- Lift heavy objects at one end before shifting the pivot point to the center.
- Use specialized equipment to lift heavy materials.
- Use supports to hold materials overhead.
- Use platforms to raise and lower materials.
- Never carry materials on ladders.
- Never support materials with your head.
- Take breaks so that muscles and joints have time to recover.
- Use scaffolds to keep materials at knee height.
- Never twist the body when lifting heavy materials.