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Construction Workers at Risk of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders

In 1992, construction workers were afflicted with approximately 55,000 work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs). In 2014, only 18,000 WMSDs were recorded. Although this can seem like a big improvement, Fox News indicates that the decline happened at the same time as an overall reduction in construction work injuries and could also be attributed in part to injury underreporting and to changes in record-keeping requirements by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Regardless of why the decline occurred, 18,000 work-related musculoskeletal disorders each year is still a substantial number of construction workers suffering injuries to muscles, tendons, joints, and nerves. Because so many workers get hurt, WMSDs are a very costly problem and a problem that changes a lot of lives for the worse. There is room for improvement when it comes to protecting construction professionals from these types of injuries.

Fox News reported on a study of WMSDs which showed that work-related musculoskeletal disorders account for about one out of every four non-fatal work injuries. In 2014, workers afflicted with these injuries were forced to miss an average of 13 days of work, compared with an average of eight work days in 1992.

The costs in 2014 for all of the work-related musculoskeletal disorders was around $46 million, when factoring in wage losses. The costs of missing work and getting treatment can be far too high for individual workers to cope with, which is why it is so vital that a worker who develops a WMSD consult with an attorney to make a workers' compensation benefits claim.

Most WMSDs happen due to overexertion, which means that construction workers are asking their bodies to do too much. The body part which was most likely to be affected was the back. More than 40 percent of construction workers who suffered a work-related musculoskeletal disorder experienced injury to their back.

Back injuries can be difficult to treat effectively, which can increase medical costs. Ongoing pain and limitations can also occur when the back is injured. Injured workers should be able to get workers' comp to cover all of their care costs, as well as total or partial disability benefits if their WMSD caused them to be temporarily or permanently unable to work or unable to earn as much as they did pre-injury.

Ideally, hazards should be removed from work sites to prevent WMSDs. When this is not possible, safety advocates recommend adjusting the way that work is organized, like adding power equipment to move materials, and using engineering controls. Optimizing a work site for proper ergonomics is important and workers should really be trained on how to life heavy objects in a safe way. This will make it possible for construction staff to do their jobs with a reduced risk of injury, and can help to protect an employer from becoming liable for a workplace injury.

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