In the construction industry, one big safety challenge is minimizing lifting hazards while on the job. These can be difficult to control due to the nature of work within the industry. It’s easy to forget proper lifting techniques while moving block, mixing mortar, pouring concrete or lifting and transporting lumber. Employees who frequently lift with their backs, or use improper lifting techniques, often experience back and joint pain, or even sprains and strains, which can be potentially damaging to their productivity and personal lifestyle. The impact to one employee’s productivity affects the whole team and can lead to unfavorable outcomes for the day’s projects. So how can general contractors scale down the number of lift-related injuries? It all starts with proper education and training of the workforce.
Five years ago, Miron Construction Co., Inc., a general contractor headquartered in Neenah, Wis. and an AGC of Greater Milwaukee and AGC of Wisconsin member, developed the Work Strong Program to highlight the company’s three-step philosophy: Work Strong, Work Safe, Work Smart. The program was put in place to address the company’s largest area of loss—strains and sprains due to lift injuries. The Work Strong Program focuses on educating craft workers in three distinct areas: business and personal ramification of muscular skeletal injuries, proper lifting techniques, and stretching/warm-up techniques. The ultimate goal of the Work Strong Program was to minimize and eventually eliminate lift-related injuries both in the workplace and at home.
Here is how the program works. Every morning craft workers arrive on the project site for pre-shift stretching. Employees stretch for approximately 10 minutes prior to the start of their shift. The stretching exercises are led by a craft worker, foreman or superintendent and include stretches for arms, shoulders, legs, back and neck. During stretching, site supervisors have the chance to share pre-task planning to help employees organize their day. Topics discussed include production goals, quality expectations, and risk control measures that will be implemented to prevent loss during the day’s construction activities. This entire process is known as Stretch and Flex.
Miron Construction’s risk management team worked to develop three steps to implement their company’s Work Strong Program. The steps include explaining the importance of participation to employees, informing them about proper lifting and ergonomics and actually carrying out the stretches each and every day. Craft workers have bought in 100 percent and their willingness to comply with the program aligns with Miron’s culture of safety—everyone shares ownership in being responsible for safety, quality and productivity on the jobsite.
A program such as the Work Strong Program is beneficial to construction companies because it increases employees’ safety and wellness, and it reduces injuries. Since the implementation of the program, Miron Construction has seen an approximately 35 percent decrease in lift-related injuries. Because of across-the-board efforts, the company achieved an experience modification rate that is well below the national average.
In the construction industry, there are many benefits to having a similar program in place. Some of these benefits include:
- Team bonding and collaboration: Bringing everyone together in the morning allows for more time to get to know the group with which you are working. It also provides for consistency by bringing the entire team of craft workers together before splitting off to complete specific tasks. Team members have the chance to talk to everyone involved about projects and ideas.
- Preparation for the day ahead: Stretching and meeting to talk about the pre-task plan prepares workers both mentally and physically. By meeting like this daily, workers know what is expected of them during the day in terms of deadlines for specific projects.
- Reduction of soft tissue/muscular skeletal injuries: By educating the workforce about how to properly lift heavy equipment and materials, injuries are reduced and productivity actually increases. The more lift-related injuries that occur, the less likely it is that certain projects will be completed on time. No client wants to hear that news.
- Raises awareness: The consistency of these morning meetings serves as a constant reminder to be on guard for safety risks throughout the day. All employees are empowered to make decisions that will make a difference in the safety of themselves and others.
Beneficiaries of these types of programs extend beyond just employees of the company. Clients are also impacted. By preparing employees with specific safety training, clients get a contractor and a team that can come into the project and deliver professional work without jeopardizing the client’s processes, people or property.
At Miron Construction, quality, safety and production come as a package deal. Safety is critical, and the company has a mission to protect their employees and subcontractors’ employees while working on a project site. Each employee has the responsibility to identify safety hazards and know how to react to and eliminate them; and the ability to do that stems from comprehensive safety training.This article originally appeared in the June Safety Matters e-Newsletter from AGC of America: http://ow.ly/mNNdo