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3 Simple Steps to Prevent Sprains and Strains

By Bob White
ROII Safety Services Director

One of the most common and costly workers’ compensation injury claims we see at ROII and nationwide are sprains, strains, and other injuries. These injuries are often the result of improper material handling techniques and are easily avoided.

Forklifts and booms will long outlast your employees’ backs and are much cheaper to repair. Worker’s comp claims resulting from a sprain or strain injury carry a string of hidden costs to companies, as well as employee downtime, light duty wages and increased worker’s comp rates. A little forethought and some extra diligence in placing materials for your employees can increase production time and lower the risk of injury.

1. Material flow & housekeeping

Carrying heavy material over uneven surfaces, slopes or debris is a recipe for injury claims. Many employers now think ahead as to how they can “save a step” when it comes to manually lifting and moving heavy materials by planning jobsite flow ahead of time. Taking a minute to survey the jobsite before scheduling that lumber package or load of drywall can save time and reduce the need to move materials manually. Keeping the worksite clean and removing jobsite residuals also helps reduce slips, trips and stumbles while moving material.

2. Supplier communication & material placement

It’s essential to establish clear communication with suppliers and ensure delivery drivers know exactly where to place the materials. Companies often send staff to unmanned jobsites to guarantee delivery drivers follow directions. Roofing and drywall companies often have complaints that roofs or buildings were loaded incorrectly, requiring employees to manually move products over pitched or other areas, which often result in strains and sprains. Policing the flow of materials and the welfare of your workforce can help shave down the odds of expensive workers' comp claims.

3. Warm-up & proper lifting

In today’s workforce market, skilled employees are at a premium. So, taking care of the people you have has become the focus of many employers. More and more companies are recognizing their workforce as “construction athletes.” You can help keep your workforce healthy and productive by implementing stretching and other muscle warm-up activities before employees begin work. Warm-up exercises can also help your workforce become sharper and more alert, leading to better situational awareness, which is another major cause of injury.

During the 80s and 90s, I worked in the timber industry. I remember a prominent Northwest logging company boss saying, “If my choker setters aren’t going through a pair of pants per week, they aren’t charging the brush hard enough.” That company went out of business long ago due to skyrocketing workers' comp rates because they could no longer compete for work in an ever-tightening industry.

In contrast, the owner of another logging company once shared with me, “Hire good people to begin with, treat them right, give them good equipment and they will stick around and work hard.”

The latter company is now being handed down to the second generation after nearly 45 years in business.

If you are an ROII participant and would like to receive my regular safety updates, including ideas for safety topics, please contact me at (360) 352-7800 ext. 109 or bobw@biaw.com.

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