Construction workers’ jobs are among the most strenuous and frequently require them to carry heavy objects, lift things, pull, push, bend, stoop and perform activities that increase the risk of musculoskeletal or soft tissue injuries. Soft tissue injuries affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, discs, and cartilage. These injuries can cause severe pain, numbness, tingling sensations, and other effects that can reduce a worker’s ability to do the job. Soft tissue injuries tend to be repetitive stress injuries that develop over time, most frequently affecting the neck, back, shoulder, elbow, arms, hips, wrists, knees, and ankles.
Taking the proper precautions when lifting and carrying items will help reduce the risk of overexertion and prevent soft tissue injuries. When you need to lift an object, ensure you are facing the load with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your heels down, and your feet slightly pointed out. Squat by bending at the hips and knees. Use your leg and stomach muscles to power the lift, not your arms or back. Once the item is lifted properly, it’s time to carry it to where it’s needed. Make sure your feet are pointed in the direction you want to move. Take small steps to turn your body to avoid twists, turns, and awkward positions. Keep the load close to you and walk at a steady pace. When it is time to place the item down, lower it by bending at the legs and knees.
Just as you would maintain a piece of equipment, you must conduct preventative maintenance on your body. The following precautions can help prevent soft tissue injuries:
- Stretch before you use your muscles.
- Avoid bending or twisting the back or neck.
- Avoid overexertion.
- Use ladders to reach overhead objects and mechanical equipment to carry and move heavy materials.
- Use proper lifting techniques. Lift with your legs, not your back.
- Make the most of your break times and stretch muscles that have become tense from continuous sitting and/or exposure to vibration.
- Use tools properly. Keep tools between your waist and shoulder height, which is considered the “lifting zone.” This gives you the most leverage and allows the strongest muscles to do the work.
Proper planning is essential to prevent soft tissue injuries. A thorough job-hazard analysis is critical. Identifying where mechanical equipment can aid in lifting and carrying will help alleviate unnecessary strain on workers’ bodies. Through training, pre-planning, and proper execution, it is possible to prevent soft tissue injuries on construction job sites.