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What workers need to know about construction site back injuries

California construction workers should be aware that they work in the industry that has the highest incidence of work-related back injuries of any industry in the country. As reported by Fox News, musculoskeletal disorders among construction workers make up 25 percent of all workplace injuries, and 40 percent of these are back injuries.

A musculoskeletal disorder affects the worker’s joints, muscles, nerves and/or tendons and often is a very painful condition that takes days, weeks or even months to recover from. Construction workers took an average of eight days off work to recover from back injuries in 2014, resulting in lost wages of over $46 million.

Workers most at risk

Virtually all construction workers are at risk for suffering an on-the-job back injury since their jobs usually require them to continually lift, carry and work with heavy equipment, tools and materials. The following types of workers, however, are particularly at risk for sustaining a back injury:

  • Bricklayers and stonemasons
  • Drywall installers
  • Roofers
  • Floor and wall tile installers
  • Jackhammer operators

The problem is not only the weight of the tools and materials, but also the contortions and repetitive motions that a construction worker’s body must go through in order to manipulate them. Such constant motions put ever-increasing stress on the worker’s back, eventually leading to a musculoskeletal disorder that can cause extreme pain and possibly a permanent disability.

An illustrative example

The stress to a worker’s back from lifting even relatively light materials such as bricks on a daily basis adds up over time. The Center for Construction Research and Training gives the following sobering example of what a bricklayer actually lifts, even though his bricks weigh only 38 pounds. The point is, he lifts one an average of 200 times per day. Here are the results:

  • He lifts 3.8 tons in one day, more than the weight of a truck, SUV or limousine.
  • He lifts 19 tons in one week, the approximate weight of a Greyhound bus or mobile home.
  • He lifts 950 tons in one year; in other words, a drilling rig.

With such enormous weights involved, construction workers should make every attempt to minimize the amount of stress they put on their backs while at work.

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