Most people associate the word ergonomic with office workers. An ergonomically-designed office space, for example, is one that is designed to help workers avoid repetitive motion injuries associated with activities such as typing.
Ergonomics is the science of designing work tasks to fit the worker instead of forcing the worker to conform to the job. It covers a wide range repetitive motions, as well as physical and environmental factors.
But office workers aren’t the only people who need to pay attention to ergonomics. Construction workers also must be aware of ergonomic hazards on the job.
For construction workers, physical stressors include repetitive motions such as using a manual screwdriver over and over. It also can be caused by jobs that expose a worker to continual vibration, like jackhammering.
Excessive force and working in awkward positions also are examples of physical stressors. Carrying large loads of bricks would be considered excessive force. Working in an awkward position encompasses everything from prolonged shoulder flexion to crouching in a confined workspace.
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are directly linked to ergonomic hazards in construction workers and are a leading cause of workplace injuries on construction sites. Construction workers are especially vulnerable to musculoskeletal disorders because they do a great deal of lifting, bending, reaching overhead, and pushing and pulling of heavy loads.
It is important to note that physical stressors would not cause injuries if a particular task only was performed once. But if a physically stressing task is performed on a regular basis, it can cause injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and tension neck syndrome.
Environmental factors can also cause stress to an individual’s hearing or vision. On a construction site these can include excessive noise around heavy equipment that leads to hearing loss. Poor air quality is another environmental stressor. It can result in headaches, congestion, and fatigue. Areas with poor air quality would include places where a great deal of dust is floating around or where there is exposure to powerful paint fumes.
It is in a construction company’s best interest to keep their workers safe and healthy to reduce employee downtime. In order to protect workers from ergonomic hazards, companies should take the following steps:
- Ask workers for input on what areas they feel are of particular concern when it comes to ergonomic hazards.
- Have construction sites evaluated by a safety services company that is experienced in identifying and eliminating ergonomic hazards.
- Provide employee training on how to work as ergonomically as possible.
- Encourage employees to report any symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders as soon as they appear.
Creating an ergonomically-designed workspace is the responsibility of every employer but it can be overwhelming at times. That’s why partnering with a safety services company to implement such a program is often your best course of action.