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Why construction workers suffer so many back injuries

If you do construction work in California, your job likely requires you to lift, hold and carry heavy things virtually every day. Consequently, your back takes a beating whenever you go to work. It should come as no surprise to you that musculoskeletal disorders represent 25 percent of all work-related injuries, and back injuries represent 40 percent of these.

A musculoskeletal disorder generally results from the strains your back suffers on a daily basis that build up over time. They affect your back’s muscles, tendons, joints and nerves. Often quite painful, you may need to take substantial time off from your job when you develop one. In 2014, construction workers averaged eight days off per injury, resulting in lost wages of over $46 million.

Highest risk

All construction workers face high risk of suffering a back injury, but your risk is particularly high if you work one of the following types of jobs:

  • Drywall installer
  • Roofer
  • Stonemason or bricklayer
  • Floor or wall tile installer
  • Jackhammer operator

The “little” stresses and strains your back suffers each day build up over time. In addition, your body seldom has time to fully heal between them. Eventually this results in a back injury that could leave you permanently disabled.

Alarming example

In all likelihood, you never consciously think about how much weight you lift on your job. Therefore, you undoubtedly will find the classic bricklayer example quite enlightening. Assume your job is to lay bricks and you lift a 38-pound brick about 200 times each day you work. Over time, you lift the following:

  • Each day you lift 3.8 tons.
  • Each week you lift 19 tons.
  • Each year you lift 950 tons.

Obviously, you lift an incredible amount of weight when you work construction, and it is no wonder that you are at high risk for back injuries. Try to minimize your risk by lifting with your legs rather than your back whenever you pick up a heavy load. If it weighs 50 pounds or more, enlist the help of a co-worker or use a dolly. Most importantly, be sure to see a doctor whenever you suffer a back injury, however slight, and likewise stay home for a sufficient amount of time to allow your back to heal.

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