October is Ergonomics Month! Did you know that in 2019, 23 per cent of workplace injury claims in Manitoba’s construction industry were musculoskeletal injuries?
A musculoskeletal injury (MSI) is an injury of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, or spinal discs — NOT directly caused by a fall, vehicle collision, or other such events. Overexertion, awkward postures, and repetitive movements tend to be the biggest contributing factors to MSIs.
Some simple ergonomic improvements can reduce your risk of MSI.
We’ve identified some common existing and potential hazards and ergonomic controls for YOUR jobsite.
Hazard: Muscle strain on a worker’s back.
- Plan ahead to minimize material handling.
- Use proper lifting technique, using a two-man lift when necessary and mechanical lifting device when possible.
- Break loads into smaller units, label weights, and use pads on shoulders when carrying loads on shoulders.
Hazard: Completing work at ground/floor level while crouching on knees.
- Use tables, benches, or stands to bring work to waist height when possible, and store materials at waist height.
- If crouching for extended periods of time, stand up and stretch your legs and back, and go for a short walk periodically.
- When working on your knees, wear knee pads and take breaks to stand, stretch, and/or walk.
Hazard: Vibration from hand tools/equipment
- Rotate tasks.
- Is there another tool that vibrates less? If so, use it. Also use anti-vibration hand protection.
- Use handles that are comfortable and give you a good grip.
- Select hand tools that are designed for a neutral wrist posture and that reduce the amount of force required.
- Use tools that are low torque, low kickback, and lightweight.
- Maintain your power tools regularly so that they run with low vibration.
- Use vibration-absorbing padding on grips and handles.
Hazard: Repetitive motions, twisting movements, poor body positions, cold exposure combined with repetitive motions, holding arms with no support, and/or repetitive physical force using shoulders, arms, legs and back.
- Work methods should be designed to reduce static, extreme, and awkward postures as well as repetitive motion and excessive force.
- Use tools and equipment that are appropriate for the task.
- Reduce the number of repetitions per hour and rotate periodically to a different task involving different movements.
Hazard: Overhead work – straining shoulders, arms, and back
- Use material lifts, duct jacks, scissor lifts, extension poles, or stands for tools.
- Use adjustable scaffolds and aerial work platforms to decrease awkward postures.
Hazard: Mounting and dismounting equipment – when a person jumps from a height of more than 30 cm, the force that goes through the body is about 14 times the person’s body weight. In other words, a 75 kg man who jumps out of a tractor or any other high surface is exerting more than 1,000 kilograms of force on his body.
- Never jump off equipment.
- Ensure three-point contact at all times.
- Check boots for mud, ice, grease, etc.
- Check ladders and steps for mud, ice, grease, or damage.
Hazard: Welding – awkward postures, such as squatting, kneeling, or stooping due to the confined or tight locations. Lifting heavy equipment or materials, keeping your neck bent or keeping your shoulders raised for a long time. Putting stress on your neck from supporting the heavy weight of your hard hat and welding mask.
- Use height-adjustable mobile lift tables for transporting material into the workshop and position the work at a height between your waist and your shoulder.
- Sit on a work stool when the work is low and use a worktable or work bench instead of bending over to work on the ground.
- Take stretch breaks throughout the day to relieve discomfort and get the muscles moving.
- Use auto-darkening lenses that darken as soon as the arc is struck. These lenses eliminate the need to repeatedly open and close your helmet, and reduce neck strain.
- Use mechanical lifting equipment whenever you can, particularly when loading or unloading material.