Think Before You Lift
The lifting of heavy objects can be a common cause of musculoskeletal injuries amongst construction workers. It’s therefore vital that your team receives comprehensive training in proper lifting techniques. For really heavy loads, your team should have access to wheelbarrows and trolleys, or mechanical lifting equipment. Investing in the proper equipment can pay off in the long run, particularly if it results in less team members suffering from work-related back, neck and muscle problems.
The NHS advises the following points when lifting3:
- Think before you lift
- Keep the load close to your waist
- Adopt a stable position
- Ensure that you have a good hold on the load
- Don’t bend your back when lifting
- Don’t twist when you lift
- Look ahead when lifting
- Move smoothly and avoid sudden movements
- Know your limits
- Put the load down and then adjust
The Mayo Clinic has created this useful slideshow to demonstrate the correct lifting technique.
Your team should also ask for help from colleagues if they have a particularly large or heavy load to lift.
Maintain Good Posture
Poor posture can be another cause of musculoskeletal injuries, particularly if it’s maintained for a long period of time. Your team should think about the most comfortable posture for their neck, shoulders and back when carrying out a particular task. For example, consistently working with your arms above your head can cause unnecessary strain on your arms and shoulders. Altering your working position to elbow height could be much more comfortable and put less strain on your upper body.
Avoid unnecessary risks and hazards by ensuring that work zones are kept tidy and free from any trip hazards. According to the HSE, 24% of non-fatal injuries to workers were caused by slips, trips or falls on the same level4. You can encourage your team to tidy up as they go to ensure that the work area stays tidy at all times. People should also be warned of any areas that may prove to be particularly dangerous in regards to trip or fall hazards so they are aware of the risks.
Take a Break
Musculoskeletal injuries can also happen due to repetitive movements over a prolonged period of time. Repeatedly lifting heavy loads, for example, can put strain on your back, neck and muscles. This could lead to musculoskeletal disorders if the practice is repeated every day. It’s important to encourage your team to take regular breaks throughout the day, and to change tasks frequently. Whether that’s stopping for a cup of tea, or even switching to a slightly less manual task for a while.
Taking regular breaks from tasks throughout the day can also mean that concentration levels remain consistent. Repetitive or particularly strenuous tasks can be mentally tiring. Regular breaks can reduce the risk of injury caused by a drop in concentration levels.
Stretches and Exercise
Footballers warm up before a game to help reduce muscle soreness and your team should be doing the same. The construction industry can be particularly manual and put strain on the body for workers, especially if muscles haven’t been warmed up. The NHS has created this short warm-up routine which you could encourage your team to follow before they start their shift.
As repetitive movements are so common for construction workers, stretching throughout the day can be a great way to ease the pressure on muscles and joints. Your team should be taking regular breaks already, so why not encourage them to stretch during this time.
Early intervention is key to addressing any potential musculoskeletal risks in the workplace. Rather than waiting for a slight twinge to escalate into full blown back pain, you should encourage your team to seek medical advice as soon as possible.
When we lead such busy lives, it can be difficult to find the time to get that back twinge looked at. With our Working Body service, your team can talk to a physiotherapist over the phone at a time that suits them to talk through the symptoms and discuss possible treatment. If the physiotherapist recommends that they carry out specific exercises, they will explain them over the phone so they can try them themselves at home or at work and provide follow up support*.