Mar 2024

Combating Ergonomic Hazards in Construction

Engineer With Back Pain Injury After Accident At Construction Site

Ergonomic hazards don’t just exist in the office; they are a common risk faced by construction workers (and workers in other industries). Ergonomic injuries often impact joints, tendons, nerves, and muscles. These injuries develop gradually over time. For example, a worker who wears uncomfortable footwear may eventually develop long-term musculoskeletal disorders.

The prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders in construction highlights the importance of integrating ergonomic safety measures. This could safeguard against both immediate dangers and the cumulative impact of ergonomic hazards.

Work injuries from ergonomic hazards

Research by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reveals that ergonomics-related injuries account for nearly one-third of all cases requiring days away from work. Workers’ compensation claims for musculoskeletal disorders cost U.S. employers over $20 billion annually. These injuries not only incur high costs but can also prolong recovery times and delay workers’ return to their jobs.

This issue is particularly widespread among electrical contractors. OSHA highlights the increased risk of ergonomic injuries within this group as the workforce ages and the range of work expands. Electrical contractors don’t just work in construction. Today, they also work in building maintenance and data or networking installation, areas where ergonomic hazards are prevalent.

Risk factors that contribute to ergonomic hazards in construction

The five key risk factors of ergonomic hazards in construction include:

1. High force: This involves tasks requiring substantial physical effort, such as lifting heavy objects or applying intense grip. High-force tasks increase physical demand and often lead to fatigue and injury to muscles or the skeletal system if repeated or prolonged.

2. Awkward and prolonged postures: Working in positions that significantly stray from a natural posture (e.g., bending, twisting, or reaching) poses ergonomic risks. Electrical contractors often operate in tight spaces or with hard-to-reach equipment, making them susceptible to injuries from awkward postures.

3. Repetition: Repeating the same movements over and over stresses the body. The level of stress is influenced by the number of repetitions, movement speed, muscles involved, and required force. Continuous repetition can result in fatigue and strain on muscles or tendons.

4. Contact stress: This arises when part of the body presses against a hard or sharp surface. Contact stress can cause undue pressure that can impede nerve function and blood circulation over time.

5. Hand-arm vibration: Exposure to vibrations from power tools or machinery can cause discomfort and increase the risk of musculoskeletal disorders after prolonged use.

Mitigating risk factors

In construction, effectively managing ergonomic risks involves a careful balance between the workers’ capabilities and the job demands. Recognizing and mitigating risk factors through a comprehensive safety strategy can reduce ergonomic injuries among electrical contractors. This can be done by recognizing and addressing the above-mentioned risk factors.

Implementing effective controls is crucial to mitigating these ergonomic risk factors. For example, the use of mechanical aids such as forklifts is recommended to prevent awkward carrying positions and overexertion in material handling and heavy lifting. Additionally, it’s important to enforce proper lifting techniques through training and visible guidelines. Limits should be set for lifting (a maximum of 50 pounds) to avoid overloading.

Training sessions should highlight correct lifting methods and stress the importance of mechanical aids. Posting signs as constant reminders and designing a work schedule that allows for task rotation can also lead to a safer workplace.

Workers’ comp for ergonomic injuries

If you develop a musculoskeletal disorder or other injury linked to ergonomic hazards on the job, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, navigating the workers’ comp process can be challenging, and if you’re not careful, you could lose out on the benefits you’re entitled to. As such, it’s in your interest to speak to an experienced attorney who can ensure that your claim is properly filed and help you get the full compensation you deserve.

The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl serves injured workers throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island. To find out how our dedicated work injury team can help you, contact us to schedule a free consultation. We have law offices in Fall River and Foxborough, MA, as well as Providence, RI.

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