Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are among the most notorious work-related ailments that plague workers today. In some cases, the severity of MSDs can even go unnoticed until the wear and tear to the employee’s body becomes more pronounced and sadly, recurring.
Not surprisingly, construction workers are the ones who often fall victim to an MSD due to their demanding workload and schedule. In addition, workplace ergonomics can also be a contributing factor to the rise of MSD cases, whenever compliance to industry standards and guidelines is put aside or overlooked.
How does an MSD affect construction workers?
In general, any MSD may refer to chronic pain, numbness, or other problems in the knees, shoulders, upper body, as well as spine. However, the risks and injuries related to musculoskeletal disorders can also include:
- Risk of permanent debilitation and disability
- Injuries to limbs, back, neck, head and lungs
- Loss of physical endurance and strength
- Loss of worker productivity
- Loss of employment
The causes of musculoskeletal problems in construction are directly related to the type of construction jobs performed. For example, onsite construction often requires workers to overextend bodily weight limits lifting and moving construction supplies, bags and cartons.
Warehouse employees whose duties are picking and packing may experience an increase in injuries as a result of heavy lifting and repetitive movements of the limbs. Pain and injuries of these types are also experienced by sheet metal workers and painters. Bricklayers often injure their limbs in the process of performing their jobs. Surveyors and architects also risk musculoskeletal injuries due to manual handling of equipment used regularly to perform tasks.
Storage and Handling. Workers who perform regular workplace duties in storage and handling may experience several types of musculoskeletal disorders. For example, if containers and packages are received via truck transport to a facility, workers who are tasked to move these items from truck to storage areas may suffer injury to limbs, neck, and spine if the packages are too heavy.
Poor Lighting – A Facility Risk that Causes Injuries. During the performance of workplace duties, the facility should provide a well-lit area, especially when employees are required to do heavy lifting or use facility equipment. Additionally, OSHA recommends the workplace be kept free of obstacles in areas with heavy foot traffic.
Risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders. Different construction sites are often associated with different types of injuries. For one, employees who are in-charge of overhead work, such as painters and sheet metal workers, are likely more prone to shoulder and neck problems. Meanwhile, scaffold erectors, insulators and painters are at risk of falling to various shoulder problems. Lastly, workers who are active at floor level and kneel while working, like floor layers and roofers, sheet metal workers, as well as insulators are in danger of knee and back problems.
In the end, supervisors, foremen, and workers must all be aware of risk factors and hazards that are associated with their jobs and work environment. After all, the ability of the entire workforce to learn, identify, and report risk factors, hazards, and symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders will be the key in building a culture and program that will prevent such injuries from becoming a recurring concern in the workplace.
Learn more about construction safety in our OSHA 30-Hour training course or our OSHA 10-Hour training course.