Preventing Back Injuries in Construction Workers

By Neil Kalra

Construction sites are dangerous places. The work is very physical. These workers are also often required to use powerful machinery, climb great heights, or work on roadsides where traffic can hurt or kill them. Unfortunately, due to the inherent nature of their jobs, workers on all construction sites face a serious risk of physical harm; often seriously.

In 2018, more than one million construction workers suffered a back injury; which is about the annual average for the past several years according to the bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The bureau says that accounts for one in five of the total number of construction site injuries.

There are many different risks that construction workers face. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) says the greatest threats to worker health on construction sites include:

  • Falling from heights

  • Trench collapse

  • Collapsed scaffolding

  • Electric shock and or arc flash/blast

  • Repetitive motion injuries

Back injuries can be catastrophic, resulting from a fall or collapsed trench or scaffolding. But most of them are caused by strains due to long periods of repetitive motion (lifting, turning, etc).

A lot of construction workers tend to underreport work-related injuries because many of them – especially those lower-tier alien workers from other countries – fear they will lose their job, or can't afford to take injured time off. So they painfully muddle-on and risk making the injury worse; or are hurt another way because their back limits their movement to avoid being further injured. Even so, according to The Center for Construction Research and Training, construction workers who report hurting their back usually miss an average of seven workdays. But some can miss as much as 30 work days, or more.

Construction workers spend a lot of their time repeatedly lifting, bending, carrying, pulling, and tugging heavy loads. These repetitive movements lead to overuse of the spine and surrounding muscles. Those who climb ladders or work on scaffolds risk falling. Serious spine injuries from these falls can cause permanent disability and threaten their lives.

But construction site back Injuries can be reduced by changing how work is done, and training workers and supervisors.

How Supervisors can prevent back injuries to workers

  • Reduce carrying. Have materials delivered close to where they are used.

  • Store materials waist high when possible.

  • Raise work to waist level, if possible. Pipefitters use pipe stands. Adjust scaffolds to keep the work at waist height.

  • Make sure floors and walkways are clear and dry to reduce slip-and-trip back injuries.

  • Initiate generous rest breaks to reduce worker fatigue that causes back injuries.

When loads are too large for to handle alone:

  • Give your back a break. Use carts, dollies, forklifts, and hoists to move materials.

  • Use carrying tools with handles.

  • Carefully grip wallboard and odd-shaped loads.

  • If materials weigh more than about 50 pounds, get help from another worker or use a cart.

Be smart: Move with care

  • When lifting or carrying materials, keep the load as close to your body as possible.

  • Avoid twisting, when lifting and lowering materials. Turn your whole body instead.

  • Lift and lower materials smoothly and steadily. Avoid jerking when you lift.

  • When you pick materials off the ground, try to support yourself by leaning on something while lifting. Don’t bend over. Kneel on one knee; then pull the load up on to your other knee, then stand. And wear knee pads when you kneel.

Whether you or a family member was injured due to a construction, car, commercial vehicle, or semi-truck accident; you may be entitled to full benefits and compensation. Know your rights and get the answers you deserve.

The attorneys at Kalra Law Firm are dedicated to getting construction accident victims the compensation they deserve. Call our office now to speak with one of our experienced construction accident lawyers to represent you in your case. We offer a free initial consultation and will not charge unless we win your case. If you have any questions about your construction accident, call our New York City and Queens Construction accident lawyers today at (718) 897-2211.

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