Construction is tough, physical work, and it takes a toll on your body. But much of the wear and tear can be avoided by following some basic ergonomics tips for construction workers. These pointers won’t only help prevent chronic pain, strains, repetitive motion injuries, and other problems, they’ll also keep you more comfortable, focused, and productive through the day and for the long term.
Whether you spend most of your workday standing or sitting, these ergonomics tips for construction workers are guaranteed to make things easier on you in the course of performing your various tasks. And, as an added bonus, much of this advice carries over beyond the job site to the rest of your daily activities.
Of course, the nature of construction work means you don’t always have total control over the position of your body and how you’re using it. The important thing is to follow these ergonomics best practices as much as possible.
Ergonomics for Productivity and Pain and Injury Prevention
- Lift with your legs, not your back. This is one of the best-known ergonomics tips for construction workers, but it always warrants repeating because it’s so crucial. Fail to heed this one, and you’re putting yourself at risk for serious back problems.
- Work in a neutral position. Whether you’re sitting or standing, keep your back in its natural S-shape position. Have lumbar support while seated. Hold your neck, elbows, and wrists in alignment. If you’re standing still for a long time, put one foot up on a low footrest and alternate periodically. Try to make sure there’s enough overhead clearance so you don’t have to hunch.
- Work at the right height. Performing work too high or low strains your neck, shoulders, and back. In general, perform work at elbow height whether you’re standing or sitting. However, when you’re using heavy tools, it’s usually best to perform work slightly below elbow height.
- Limit the use of excessive force. Straining yourself—like by carrying something too heavy or by pushing or pulling too hard—jeopardizes your joints, risks muscle pulls, and creates other dangers. Use tools and strategies that provide leverage, weight distribution, and other principles that decrease the physical strain on your body.
- Keep things within easy reach. Repeatedly having to reach for things or holding your limbs extended for a prolonged period leads to fatigue. Move things around to keep them close when possible. Adjust the seat in the cab of heavy equipment to reduce reaching and prolonged arm extension when operating the controls.
- Be wary of repetitive motions. Making the same motion over and over again creates the risk of repetitive motion (overuse) injuries. When possible, vary the motions you make, switch hands, and take other steps to limit repetition using the same muscles. Tools can help too, like using a drill instead of a screwdriver.
- Avoid holding the same position for extended periods. Keeping your body in the same position—any position—for a long time creates “static load.” This in turn leads to fatigue, and it takes a toll on your health over time. The most common cause of static load is sitting for a long time. Just stay conscious about occasionally repositioning yourself or getting up.
- Minimize contact stress. Contact stress can result whenever something repeatedly comes into contact with the same area of your body. It can cause pressure and/or friction that leads to blisters and other complications. Switch up your tools, alternate hands when you can, wear gloves, add padding to handles, choose tools with padded grips, make sure your work boots fit snugly but not tightly, and so on.
- Limit exposure to vibrations. This is an often-overlooked danger in construction work. Repeated and/or prolonged exposure to vibrations is common in the industry, and it can cause fatigue, injuries, and chronic pain. Read more about how to limit exposure to vibrations here.
- Move around and stretch occasionally throughout the day. This is one of the most important ergonomics tips for construction workers—and everybody else, too. Simply walking around and stretching different parts of your body every once in a while throughout the day, every day, goes a long way toward reducing strain, static load, fatigue, and long-term damage to your health.