Back injuries are one of the most common injuries on any construction site. Although work-related back injuries are typically nonfatal, the victim may continue to suffer long after the initial injury. Consequently, more days of work are missed resulting from work-related back injuries than other types of injury. Since back injuries are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), they are considered an “illness” under the report based on the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Although illnesses comprise about 2.5% of the total report, this number could be higher as illnesses are usually underreported.
According to the Center for Construction Research and Training, or CPWR, back injuries in the construction industry are caused by repeated lifting of materials, vibration of the body, simultaneous lifting and twisting of the body, sudden movements, or bending over for a prolonged period of time. Since construction occupations typically engage in this ‘wear and tear’ activity daily, the CPWR notes that construction workers are far more likely to leave the industry due to disability than other workers.
To prevent injury and disability, the CPWR suggests planning your load and lifting strategies, changing how work is done, and training all workers and personnel. They have further provided the following tips to help prevent back injury:
· Cut down on carrying by having materials close to where they will be used.
· Make sure floors and walkways are clear and dry.
· Use carts, dollies, forklifts, and hoists to move materials rather than your back.
· For better grip, use carrying tools with handles.
· If materials weigh more than about 50 pounds, DO NOT lift them by yourself. Get help from another worker or use a cart.
· Try not to twist, when lifting and lowering materials; turn your whole body instead.
· Keep the load as close to your body as you can when lifting or carrying materials.
· When you pick up materials off the ground:
o Try supporting yourself by leaning on something while lifting.
o Don’t bend over; instead, kneel on one knee and pull the load up on to your knee before standing. (Wear knee pads when you kneel.)
You can find more tips by visiting the CPWR’s hazard alert site. Follow the tips and keep yourself healthy. With all the new construction projects and road developments popping up around Austin and all of Texas, we’re going to need as many able-bodied construction workers as possible.