Construction work can be tough on the body. Unnatural body movements such as lifting, squatting, and repetitive motion can lead to musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs. MSDs are injuries related to muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs. In 2016 alone, musculoskeletal disorders accounted for 350,000 estimated work-related injuries – evidence of the toll MSDs can take on bodies as well as business. Enter ergonomics.
Ergonomics are solutions for keeping bodies safe and comfortable without impacting productivity. For example, ergonomic office chairs are designed keep bodies engaged while sitting. But what is the equivalent for construction workers? How can ergonomics protect bodies that are standing, moving, and exerting themselves all day?
Construction work makes ergonomics challenging, but not impossible.
Here are a few ways to preserve and protect your greatest asset – your body – when engaged in manual labor:
- Start each day by stretching. Danella encourages all employees to start each day with Stretch and Flex, a series of stretches that reduces the risk of injury and tears by lengthening muscle tissue. Stretching has other benefits: it can help muscles recover faster from fatigue. It also doubles as time for mindfulness. Mindfulness reduces stress and anxiety and even improves memory.
- Bring the work to you. Any tool such as extension handles, benches, sawhorses, etc., which allows you to complete a task without reaching or kneeling, is worth consideration.
- Lift with your legs – never your back. In 2016, 40% of the 349,050 musculoskeletal injuries in the U.S. involved the back. Those percentages were even higher among laborers, pointing to the importance of proper lifting. Assuming a load can be lifted without assistance, bring it as close to your body as possible then lift with your legs – never your back. Keep your head up and your back straight, and bend at the hips.
- Speak up with ideas or concerns. Modified equipment, stretch breaks, better lighting, and body-friendly tools are some measures and controls that help prevent MSDs. If you see an opportunity to prevent bodily injuries in your workplace, speak up. Responsible leadership will take all ideas into consideration to provide a safer workplace.
- Practice healthy habits outside of work. MSDs strike all body types, but healthy bodies are more likely to dodge them or recover faster. By maintaining a healthy weight, you take undue pressure off your legs, knees, and lower back, making them more resistant to injury. A healthy diet impacts all aspects of your body’s ability to tolerate work conditions – and bounce back from injury.
Please note, Danella is not a certified medical institution. Before performing any of these stretches, it is important to not only understand your physical capabilities, but to speak with a medical professional.