Around 42,000 construction workers suffer from musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which can cause ongoing aches and pains and affect a worker’s ability to function both at work and at home. Many workers are embarrassed to talk about their symptoms or too worried to alert their employers because of site culture and perceptions.
Moving and lifting plays a large part in the prevalence of MSDs but, if managed properly, the number of workers suffering from ongoing symptoms and disruption to their day-to-day lives can be reduced. MSDs should not be accepted as the ‘norm’ for those working in the construction sector.
HSE inspectors have previously found many examples of poor moving and handling practices such as a worker lifting an 80kg kerb on his own without assistance, mechanical or otherwise, and two operatives who were required to move a 110kg floor saw into and out of a work van at a street works site.
In response to the increasing number of construction sector workers experiencing MSDs, the HSE has launched a new campaign addressing the moving and handling of materials on sites. From 4 September 2023, HSE inspectors will focus on the health risks of moving and handling materials on site when carrying out their inspections.
One key message is that moving and handling risks should be considered and prevented where possible at the planning and design stage before work starts. Once on site, employers should talk to workers about controlling existing risks and make sure appropriate measures are in place, such as the right training, aids and equipment.
Examples of methods identified to protect workers include the use of mechanical equipment to handle large glazing panes, small inexpensive airbags to help position heavy doors when being installed, the use of all-terrain pallet trucks to move blocks, and brick-lifters to carry bricks around the site.
Many construction roles are physically demanding, but it is hoped that by raising awareness within the industry, addressing the risks before work starts on site and introducing simple measures, the number of workers suffering from MSDs can be reduced, resulting in fewer lost working days and potential personal injury claims but, more importantly, a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.
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