Ergonomics for Construction Workers

Ergonomics for Construction Workers  |  Early Intervention Ergonomics

Simple Solutions • Ergonomics for Construction Workers

Welcome to the NIOSH comprehensive guide, Ergonomics for Construction Workers, tailored for construction workers, unions, supervisors, contractors, safety specialists, and human resources managers – essentially, anyone invested in fostering safer construction sites. In the demanding world of construction, some of the most prevalent injuries stem from tasks that push the human body to its limits. Workers frequently find themselves lifting, stooping, kneeling, twisting, gripping, stretching, reaching overhead, or contorting into awkward positions, putting them at risk of developing work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs). These disorders encompass a range of issues, including back problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, rotator cuff tears, as well as sprains and strains.

The mission is to offer practical, cost-effective solutions that can significantly reduce the likelihood of these injuries. We understand the unique challenges faced by construction professionals, and we are committed to making construction tasks more manageable, comfortable, and better aligned with the human body’s capabilities.

Did You Know…?

The construction industry ranks among the most hazardous sectors in the United States.

  • In 1999, the number of back injuries in U.S. construction was 50% higher than the average across all industries (CPWR, 2002).
  • A study (Cook et al, 1996) revealed that construction workers frequently report backaches, shoulder pain, neck discomfort, and hand-related issues.
  • Material handling incidents alone account for 32% of workers’ compensation claims in construction, representing 25% of the overall cost of these claims. The average cost per claim is a staggering $9,240 (CNA, 2000).
  • Musculoskeletal injuries can result in temporary or permanent disabilities, impacting both the worker’s income and the contractor’s profitability.

Things to Remember • Ergonomics for Construction Workers

Within this booklet, you’ll discover practical “Tip Sheets” illustrating how different tools and equipment can mitigate the risk of injury.  Construction sites have tried and tested these solutions. The construction industry’s diversity means that not all solutions will universally apply, but often, one trade can adapt ideas developed for others.

Please note that the information provided herein offers general guidance on how some construction contractors have effectively minimized workers’ exposure to musculoskeletal disorder risk factors. It’s crucial to recognize that the examples cited may not be suitable for all types of construction work. Furthermore, while utilizing the tools and equipment outlined in this booklet can certainly reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders, it does not guarantee their prevention. The information shared here does not introduce new obligations or establish specific standards or guidelines.

The overarching aim of Ergonomics for Construction Workers is to present solutions that are not only effective but also cost-efficient. While some remedies may exceed a $1,000 budget, potentially posing challenges for certain contractors, we firmly believe that successful implementation will lead to a rapid return on investment in many cases.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Always consult with an ergonomics expert before making significant changes to your workspace setup.

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Trench Safety

The Importance of Trench Safety: Safeguarding Lives and Enhancing Construction Practices

Trench safety is a critical aspect of construction and excavation activities that warrants significant attention. Within the depths of narrow and deep excavations, workers face inherent risks that necessitate strict adherence to safety protocols. In this article, we delve into the paramount importance of trench safety and explore essential measures for safeguarding lives below the surface, ultimately improving construction practices.

Trench safety is a critical aspect of construction and excavation activities that warrants significant attention. These workers are attempting to build a safe trench.


Understanding the Significance:

Comprehending the risks associated with trenching and excavation work is crucial. These activities pose a range of hazards, including cave-ins, falls, engulfment, hazardous atmospheres, and falling objects. Among these risks, trench collapses pose a particularly grave threat, burying workers under massive volumes of soil, resulting in severe injuries or fatalities. Therefore, prioritizing trench safety becomes indispensable in preventing accidents and ensuring the well-being of those involved in excavation work.

Key Safety Measures:
  • Implementing Protective Systems: Employing effective protective systems forms the cornerstone of trench safety. Trench boxes, or trench shields, provide structural support to prevent soil collapse. Shoring techniques, such as hydraulic shoring and timber shoring, reinforce trench walls, mitigating the risk of collapses. Similarly, employing sloping and benching techniques involves cutting back trench walls at specific angles to minimize cave-in hazards.
  • Competence and Training: The competence and training of personnel engaged in trenching and excavation work are of paramount importance. Comprehensive training programs equip workers with the ability to identify potential hazards, comprehend soil types, utilize protective systems, and operate equipment safely. Regular safety briefings and refresher courses reinforce adherence to safety protocols and best practices.
  • Site Evaluation and Planning: Thorough site evaluations are essential before commencing any trenching operation. This evaluation includes identifying existing utilities, assessing soil composition, evaluating water accumulation risks, and identifying potential hazardous atmospheres. Detailed planning ensures the implementation of appropriate safety measures and the availability of necessary equipment on-site.
  • Ensuring Adequate Access and Egress: Establishing safe entry and exit points in trenches is crucial. Constructing properly designed ladders, stairways, or ramps enables workers to enter and exit trenches safely. Minimizing the distance between access points ensures swift evacuation during emergencies.
  • Atmospheric Monitoring: Regularly monitoring atmospheric conditions within trenches is imperative to prevent exposure to hazardous gases and oxygen depletion. Thorough monitoring for toxic gases like methane or hydrogen sulfide ensures a safe working environment. Installing effective ventilation systems guarantees a continuous supply of fresh air.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Providing adequate personal protective equipment to workers engaged in trenching operations is crucial. This includes hard hats, high-visibility clothing, safety boots, and protective gloves. Workers should also utilize respiratory protection when at risk of inhaling hazardous substances.
Trench Safety Tools & Resources from OSHA & MOCGA:

OSHA Resources:

MOCGA Outreach Materials:


Final Thoughts:

Ensuring trench safety is a shared responsibility among employers, supervisors, and workers alike. By recognizing potential risks and implementing robust safety measures, accidents can be minimized, and the well-being of those working below the surface can be safeguarded. Trench safety must never be compromised, and adherence to best practices, comprehensive training, and the use of protective systems are indispensable in protecting lives and preventing tragedies in the construction and excavation industry. Let us prioritize trench safety as an integral part of every trenching operation, enhancing construction practices and fostering a secure working environment.

More Tools & Resources from Peak Ergonomics
Healthy Employees are the Bottom Line!
Contact Us About Reducing Workplace Injuries