Protecting your Lower Back as a Construction Worker

construction worker how to protect prevent back injury

Working as a construction worker is quite possibly the most physically demanding career paths you could have. The job description for anyone in the construction industry demands that you be atop of your physical abilities while being capable of returning the next day healthy and ready to work. However, even though many who work in construction are in good physical health, there is a fair amount of turnover in the career.

Why is this?

Construction workers are notorious for having frequent workplace injuries. For starters, there is a fair amount of lifting, bending, twisting, holding a position for a long period of time, as well as climbing. With that said construction workers are at greatest risk of workplace injuries, especially lower back injuries. Lower back injuries are one of the most common types of injuries that affect construction workers and it comes down to a wide range of daily work factors that affect this. Listed below are five ways that construction workers can protect the lower back area to avoid injuries and time away from work.

The Top 5 Ways for Construction Workers to Protect Against Lower Back Pain

1. Learn Proper Mechanics for Lifting Heavy Objects

It is understood that since you work construction, you are a tough person capable of placing quite a bit onto your body. However, it is important for all construction workers to learn proper body mechanics and actually utilize these mechanics throughout the workday, week, and throughout the career. Proper body mechanics involves some education, but mostly it involves simple tasks such as learning how to pick heavy things off the ground and learning how not to move in certain ways. For most, lifting heavy objects should involve bending your knees and lowering your glutes until you reach the object below. Lifting with your legs will save your entire back areas, as bending over at your hips to lift something can place permanent strain in those lower back muscles.

2. Build Muscle Mass to Help your Mechanics

If you want to have more of a preventative measure on your body mechanics, consider performing deadlifts in the gym to simulate this movement. Building muscle mass in your legs and lower back muscles can help you and your performance on the job so use exercise as a way to prevent injuries at work. If you have never performed a deadlift, consider taking it light to begin. Learn your body mechanics and have them down before moving on to heavier weights. For starters, perform 10 repetitions of three sets of deadlifts of lightweight. The ideal form of a deadlift involves a knee bend, slight hip bend, and lifting using your legs. Refer here for great details on the deadlift form.

3. Preventative Stretching

This is not necessarily something that many construction workers do onsite, but stretching the entire body can have boundless rewards for your lower back muscles. Some stretches specifically for your lower back and legs include the following:

  • Toe Touch:
    Start with your feet close together and bend your knees as much as possible so that you can grab ahold of your toes/feet. Slowly lift your glutes and straighten your knees until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings area. Depending on your range of motion in your hamstrings, this exercise can also add benefit to your lower back, since your hips are completely bent in this position. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat for two sets.
  • Knee to Chest:
    This is a good stretch for the glutes and abductor muscles and you start by lying on your back on the floor. Start with your legs and arms on the floor and start this stretch by bringing one knee towards your chest. Use your hands to gain more benefit from this and hold. Perform two sets of 30 seconds and make sure to perform two sets on both legs.
  • Cat Cow:
    This is a stretch/movement that you would do in a yoga class, but it is a great exercise for your spine and lower back muscles. You start by bringing your hands and knees on the floor, with a straight back to start. Gently raise your back/spine towards the ceiling and hold briefly. Slowly lower the spine down towards the floor by trying to touch the stomach to the floor and hold briefly. Perform two sets of 10 repetitions of the cat cow stretch to prevent lower back pain.

4. No Twisting Motions

Perhaps this is one of the most important things for your lower back health and it is vital in the construction industry. Twisting motions, especially with a heavy object, is a fast way to strain the lower back muscles. If you need to perform a motion that involves the twist, consider lifting the object near your body, turning the entire body towards where you are going, and then perform a handoff or delivery. This is a simple way to prevent permanent damage to the lower back muscles and it can pay off in the long run.

5. Wear Protective Gear

Perhaps exercising is a bit much for your daily life and perhaps it takes time to learn new body mechanics, but one thing you can utilize in your daily work routine is a back brace. These braces are similar to what bodybuilders wear in the gym and they help to prevent slight bending in the lower back region on your body (the lumbar region). There are plenty of options to select from, but you should consider a bodybuilder’s back brace for best results. Consider leather options for best support and the bodybuilder braces are not too bulky that they interfere with your uniform.

Manual Handling: The Basics

manual handling safety at work

Manual Handling is an expression that gained popularity in 1992 when the Manual Handling Operations Regulations were introduced and it refers to “any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or bodily force”.

In other words, this means that any action that requires a person to push, lift or carry an object without any tools or devices is considered manual handling.

The Dangers of Manual Handling

Manual handling accidents happen more often than you think. As a matter of fact, more than 30% of the injuries reported are related to manual handling, and roughly 10% of critical ones are associated with it. This has a massive influence on workspaces, the damage adding up to hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

For instance, about 1.1 million people have declared that they’re affected by musculoskeletal disorders that have been caused or aggravated by their daily job. Furthermore, approximately 12.3 million work days are lost every year as a result of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

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Here’s Why Safe Lifting Is Important

safe lifting at work

In a large number of jobs, workers are expected to lift items that are much heavier than what is typically required in day-to-day life. Not only that, they are required to lift repeatedly at a cracking pace.

It’s no secret that this routine places a worker’s musculoskeletal health at risk. Continuously lifting heavy things – especially with poor technique – can cause significant damage to joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and discs over time. Most commonly, back, shoulder and knee problems emerge and may never fully resolve.

To be sure that risks are minimised and that employees are safe while working, it is essential to train them on the right techniques to use while moving objects at work. By taking into consideration the perils of heavy lifting, you will be able to:

  • Decrease the number of injuries at your workplace
  • Enhance the physical well-being of your employees
  • Reduce nonattendance due to aches, sprains, and strains, etc.
  • Enhance efficiency and overall productivity

All of the above can tangibly impact how the business is run. So, providing training on safe lifting makes plenty of sense.

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