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Ergonomics Training Program Focuses on Preventing Soft Tissue Injuries in Construction Workers

By: Grace Barlet, CPWR, and Eileen Betit, CPWR, Contributors

Soft tissue injuries, or musculoskeletal disorders, are one of the leading causes of disabling injuries in the construction industry1. To help prevent these injuries, CPWR–The Center for Construction Research and Training developed a free program called Best Built Plans (www.bestbuiltplans.org), which was introduced in the previous version of this eBook, Keeping Your Workers Safe in Construction. This program includes tools and resources for contractors and workers to support planning for safer manual materials handling at every stage of a construction project, while also staying productive and profitable.

Building on these resources, CPWR, in collaboration with researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry, and the Mechanical Contractors Association of America, released the first module in its two-part Best Built Plans—Comprehensive Ergonomics Training Program. This training program incorporates the resources from the Best Built Plans program and makes the important connection between how preventing injuries and pain can also reduce the need for pain medication and the risk of developing an opioid use disorder.

The first module in this program is designed to provide instructors with the information needed to raise construction workers’ awareness of soft tissue injuries and ways to prevent them, including safe lifting practices and proper body mechanics. It includes both classroom and hands-on components and materials to use with each. The second module in this program, which will be available soon, includes information on the hazards and solutions, as well as information to help contractors integrate ergonomics into their company’s safety program.

The Worker-Focused Module

The worker-focused training module consists of four parts to provide instructors with the flexibility to tailor the program for the time, space and resources available:

  • Part 1 is divided into two presentations, Parts 1-A and 1-B. Part 1-A introduces workers to the causes of soft tissue injuries and proper lifting practices to use to reduce the risk of injuries from handling materials on the job site. Part 1-B addresses the value of selected stretching exercises; provides basic information about the connection between soft tissue injuries and the risk for opioid dependence; and reviews the Best Built Plans resources, which are designed to reinforce what was learned.
  • Part 2 includes a series of five short, hands-on exercises designed to reinforce and apply lessons learned in Part 1-A about safe lifting practices and proper body mechanics.
  • Part 3 covers the Best Built Plans interactive training resources (available for use on a PC or as an app for a tablet or smartphone) and the smartphone games. These resources can be used to introduce trainees to, or reinforce the importance of, planning for how materials will be lifted and moved and using safe lifting practices (including equipment and team lifts).
  • Part 4 is intended to be used with a more advanced class or as a refresher for workers who have already received the basic ergonomics training.

The instructor guide includes notes for each slide in the PowerPoint presentations, instructions and signage for hands-on exercises, suggested handouts and materials needed to conduct each part of the program. The PowerPoint slides also contain the notes that go with each slide. Users can substitute trade-specific photos for the ones used in the presentations and in the materials used in the hands-on exercises.

The Best Built Plans—Comprehensive Ergonomics Training Program for Workers is available online for free at: https://www.cpwr.com/research/research-practice-library/construction-ergonomic-research-solutions. The contractor-focused module will also be available soon on this website. WMHS

For more information about the Best Built Plans—Comprehensive Ergonomics Training Program, please contact Eileen Betit, Director of Research to Practice, or Grace Barlet, Research Assistant at CPWR–The Center for Construction Research and Training
(ebetit@cpwr.com or gbarlet@cpwr.com).

1 2019 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index.

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