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Construction workers at high risk for back injuries

If you are one of Iowa’s many construction workers, you are at high risk of suffering an on-the-job back injury. These work-related musculoskeletal disorders, such as to your joints, tendons, muscles and/or nerves, occur more among construction workers than among all other types of workers combined.

Musculoskeletal disorders account for approximately 25 percent of all construction injuries, and over 40 percent of them are back injuries. In 2014, construction workers had to take an average of eight days off work to recover from their back injuries, resulting in nearly $46 million in lost wages.

An alarming hypothetical

Construction workers like you must constantly pull, push, lift and carry heavy tools and materials as part of your job. Often you continually bend and/or twist your body while picking them up. This persistent stress and strain takes its toll on your body, particularly your back.

For instance, assume that you are a bricklayer, and assume that you lift 38-pound blocks an average of 200 times a day. You will be astounded to know that you lift the following tonnage:

  • 3.8 tons each day, more than the weight of a limousine, SUV or truck
  • 19 tons each week, nearly the weight of a mobile home or a Greyhound bus
  • 950 tons each year, more than the weight of a drilling rig

Now assume that you have been a bricklayer for 20 years. Over that period of time you have lifted 19,000 tons – more than a submarine, a destroyer or a spacecraft weighs. While you may be justifiably proud of your strength, your back has taken a beating. It is not hard to see why middle-aged construction workers are the ones most likely to develop debilitating back conditions that prevent them not only from working at their jobs, but possibly any job at all.

Preventing back injuries at work

Let your construction equipment do the lifting for you whenever possible. For instance, use a hoist to lift your load. Then use a dolly, cart or forklift to move it. If you must carry it yourself, get one of your co-workers to help you if it weighs 50 pounds or more. Neither of you should bend or twist your body while lifting it. In addition, make sure that all your construction site floors are dry and free of debris that you could trip over. Slip-and-fall accidents are a major cause of back injuries.

Despite all your precautions, however, back injuries can and often do occur in the workplace. If you sustain one, talk with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney who is experienced in back injuries and the medical expenses and lost wages they can cause. (S)he can assess your situation, answer all your questions and advise you about filing a workers’ compensation claim and/or a personal injury lawsuit.

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