Workplace safety

Make safety a priority

It might surprise you to learn how many members of the American workforce have “physical labor” as part of their job description. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nearly half of all workers do jobs that require “medium” strength. Among construction workers, 65 percent of jobs require “heavy” or “very heavy” work.

If you’re a worker who does this kind of work — or an employer with employees who do — there are things you can do to mitigate the chances of injury.

Here are a few things you should know about on-the-job risks and ways you can mitigate them.

  • It’s about more than your back. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) affect the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, and tendons throughout the body, and can be triggered by lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, working in awkward body postures, or performing the same task repetitively.
  • Accidents Happen. According to the BLS, in 2021 there were 2.6 million nonfatal workplace injuries. Many of these injuries could have been avoided with a sound ergonomic plan.
  • Education is important. Understanding the how and why of ergonomics can help discourage overexertion and bad decision-making. Post notices about proper lifting techniques, ladder use, and other equipment safety rules and emergency evacuation plans. Regular training can help reinforce these lessons in employees.
  • A workplace culture of wellness is important. Employers can foster mental and physical well-being by offering regular break times, incentives for participation in wellness programs, and free nutritious snacks in the break room. Employees should take advantage of any training and well-being initiatives.
  • Work smarter, not harder. It’s important to think realistically about the tasks that need to be done, and to understand the physical toll they can exact. The best way to treat a workplace injury is to make sure it never happens in the first place. Physical ability and tasks should be paired in a way that doesn’t ask more of a body than it’s able to handle. Safety equipment such as protective clothing, dollies, and ratchet straps should be readily available, and their use enforced when required.
  • It’s not just a good idea; it’s the law. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has injury and illness recording and reporting regulations that require employers to keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses. Federal and state laws prohibit discriminating against employees who report these kinds of problems. Injured employees should be encouraged to seek medical treatment and should have work duties restricted, as necessary.

    The information included here was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company and its employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with any training, materials, suggestions, or information provided. It is the user’s responsibility to confirm compliance with any applicable local, state, or federal regulations. Information obtained from or via Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company should not be used as the basis for legal advice and should be confirmed with alternative sources.

    Sources: Cleveland Clinic