How’s your back feeling? If you’re a concrete contractor, then chances are it’s a little sore, at minimum.
We use our backs to lift bags of cement and aggregate, brick and blocks. Our backs bend and twist as we use masonry tools, concrete drills and heavy-duty concrete cutting saws. It is the back that helps us haul concrete equipment, and sometimes that back can get more than just a little angry at us for what we put it through.
We can overestimate its strength and particularly its flexibility as we bend at the waist to pick up that diamond blade or a bit from the toolbox on the ground. It makes us pay for this, including lost wages if the pain or injury causes missed work.
According to the Center for Construction Research and Training, which was formed out of the Center to Protect Workers’ Rights, and the Construction Chart Book, back injuries are the most common injury in construction, up to 25 percent of all injuries.
The average amount of days on the worksite missed due to a single back injury is seven days - a full week. Even those making master mason wages is going to feel it – in addition to their back – in their bank account if they miss a full week of work. Some can miss up to 30 days!
HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Be aware: most back injuries result from lifting, lowering, carrying and pushing concrete and masonry materials. Strains and sprains happen from awkward twists while carrying heavy loads or bending in awkward positions for extended periods of time.
- While sometimes you must twist or bend, changing how you work while lifting, lowering and other motions that make the back vulnerable can prevent injuries.
- Before you have to bend, consider storing what you can at waist level in the first place. Store heavier materials, particularly, at waist level whenever possible.
- Work at waist level when you can (example: building framework of wooden forms on a sawhorse instead of on the ground, or pre-building offsite).
- Reduce how much and how often you have to carry. Clear a path to have materials delivered as close to the heart of the worksite as possible. Use forklifts, hoists, dollies and carts where possible.
- When you must carry, keep the load as close to your body as you can. The farther out from the core of your body, the greater the torque on your back.
- Try not to twist while carrying, pulling, lifting or lowering. Turn the whole body instead.
- Don’t jerk to lift; lift and lower in a smooth, steady way.
- “If it weighs more than fifty, grab a friend to lift it.” Anything weighing over 50 pounds should be lifted by two people or with the aid of equipment.
- Get enough sleep at night. Take breaks, before your back does. Injuries happen more often and are more likely when a person is tired or the muscles are overworked.
- Keep worksite floors and pathways clear of obstacles and dry. Trips and slips are common causes of back injuries.
- Instead of bending at the waist, take a knee. Get down on a knee, scoop the material up on to the upright knee, get a steady hold of material against your core, and stand up. Again, keep it at 50 pounds or less.
- When you purchase tools, look for ergonomic design. Use specialty accessories such as carts that allow you to stand instead of bend or hunch over.
What might be an example of such an accessory, you might ask?
If you have a Husqvarna handheld gas power concrete cutting saw, you could get the KV760 Power Cutter Cart. In addition to saving your back by being able to walk behind it instead of hunch over or crawl behind it, you’re getting a tool in itself.
With a cutter cart, it’s easy to cut straight or curved lines. The KV760 includes a water tank and quick connections, adding convenience to the precision and back-saving benefits. The wheels are laterally adjustable, making it easy to cut close to walls and curbs. It’s even easy to fold up and transport.
Hopefully, you find some of the tips in this post helpful the next time you’re out on the worksite. Ultimately, it’s up to each of us to look out for our back health, so our back can keep us going into the next day back at the site. Here’s hoping we all have many decades of happy backs ahead of us.
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