Getting an injury on a work-related job can be costly – not only with the obvious loss of money from the resulting time off that might be needed. 

There’s the task of finding treatment solutions that work quickly and in some cases assessing whether medical insurance will cover it. 

Any injury that’s occurred on a building site will need to immediately be triaged and assessed on-site to ascertain how severe it is. From then on, it might require a trip to the ER or a visit to a physician to see what can be done regarding a treatment plan. 

It’s important to try and understand how to prevent workplace injuries through better knowledge and training – and good health and safety practices too. However, what can contractors and employers do to help themselves, or at least reduce the risk of getting injured on the job? 

We’ll take a look at this as we head further on, but first things first:

Why does fitness matter for contractors?

You might assume that people who work on building sites, or carry out hard manual labor are already fit enough – and perhaps don’t need to take any further exercise to keep them healthy. However, this isn’t the case. 

There is a good deal of evidence to suggest that those people who work in these kinds of jobs are at greater risk of musculoskeletal injuries than others. Let’s look at some of the tasks construction workers carry out daily – and some of the things they’re exposed to. 

  • frequent bending and stooping
  • lifting and carrying heavy loads 
  • repetitive motions
  • exposure to vibrations
  • exposure to extreme weather conditions

As a result, construction worker’s backs, shoulders, arms, and wrists are more likely to suffer injuries and long-term wear and tear than normal. The types of injuries likely to be picked up include:

  • Repetitive motion injuries
  • Repetitive strain injuries
  • Cumulative trauma disorders 
  • Regional musculoskeletal disorders
  • Overuse syndrome

So taking into account how injuries might be picked up, and what they might be – what can we do to tackle them?

Work-related injuries

In 2022, workplace-related injuries reached a record high of 4.53 million, and on average this results in roughly eight lost working days per employee annually. Many of the injuries are to the back, or result in sprained wrists and ankles. 

If you’re working in a fixed position, or without enough leg or headroom for long enough then it can be hard for your muscles to recover between movements. The same thing can happen when a contractor uses repetitive movements over a long period without a break and perhaps too quickly.

So what can we do to help cut this risk? Well, there’s evidence to suggest that doing some simple warm-up exercises before work every day can help reduce the risk of getting injured on the job.

These types of movements can help in the long run with joint and muscle flexibility as well as core strength – helpful if workers are in confined spaces, or doing the same kind of repetitive tasks over and again for hours at a time each day. Staying in shape can help lower costs of workers’ compensation for contractors.

We’ve asked some fitness and other health experts for their opinions on why exercise is important in this line of work and what fitness tips there are that will counteract contractor injuries. Here’s what they had to say.

How can good posture minimize injuries?

In the realm of fitness, especially for contractors who face physical demands daily, the significance of maintaining good posture cannot be overstated. The constant threat of musculoskeletal injuries is a reality in such active lines of work. Drawing parallels from the office environment, where good posture is essential to prevent pain and injury, contractors can also benefit from this wisdom. Recent research, including a study from Wonkwang University Gwangju Medical Center, revealed that using a massage chair (BFR-M8040) greatly alleviated neck and shoulder pain in office workers, underscoring the broader applicability of good posture and ergonomic support in reducing injury risks. This emphasizes that proper body alignment and weight distribution are fundamental, not just for sedentary office workers but for anyone engaged in physically demanding tasks. Adopting posture-conscious practices, akin to the support offered by ergonomically designed massage chairs, can serve as a cornerstone in a comprehensive strategy to reduce contractor injuries. It’s about merging the principles of fitness with the insights of modern technology to enhance well-being and minimize the risk of injury across all professions. Julia Anne Gumanay, Blog Expert / Product Specialist at Wish Rock Relaxation


Why does physical activity not equate to physical exercise?

“While there are many things the construction industry, makers of construction tools, and construction businesses can do to reduce the risks of MSDs in the workforce, one of the key things workers can do for themselves is to stay physically fit. Many people assume that construction work contributes to a person’s overall fitness, but that all depends on the variety and intensity of movements.

Most physical activity in construction is highly specialized. A drywall hanger repeats the same movements all day long, as do people in other specialized trades. That limits the exercise variety and restricts benefits to just the muscles, bones, and tendons needed for the task. And, as the person gets more skilled in the task they don’t need to expend as much aerobic energy while doing it. That reduces the desired aerobic effect.

The value of construction work to overall physical fitness is usually related to physical activity. As one study found, mostly walking or heavy labor, makes a modest contribution to a person meeting minimum U.S. physical activity guidelines. Also important from an overall fitness perspective is that numerous studies report that workers in jobs requiring high occupational activity have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease. This is especially true for men who don’t have very much leisure time physical activity.” Duane Craig writing for ProCore

Are there limits to what exercise can do?

“The most common type of workplace injury resulting in lost time is musculoskeletal, such as strains, sprains and pulls. Stretching, flexibility and strength-building exercises aim to reduce these types of injuries. While research has not conclusively proven that exercise will directly reduce injury and lost time, there is evidence that using exercise programs does correspond with cost savings from lost-time injury. A 2010 report published by the American Society of Safety Engineers summarizes that programs reducing ergonomic risk have greater impact on injury reduction.

While research may not be conclusive about reduction of injury, there are plenty of positives reported. Exercise does show improvements to range of motion and a reduction of discomfort. Employees report feeling better about themselves when participating in stretching and other exercise programs. Such favorable influences likely improve employee performance and reduce lost time. There is no indication that exercise has a negative effect on workplace injuries.

Demanding physical work seems to benefit most from stretching and strength exercise. Though occurrence of injury is not demonstrably reduced, one study shows the cost of injury in the exercise group was less than half that of the control group, reports the American Society of Safety Engineers. This suggests injuries are not as severe with exercising workers. Studies on computer workers showed no significant improvement or reduction of symptoms; however, researchers found computer workers generally uncooperative with the study and suggested further research is needed.” Scott Shpak writing for Chron.com

What exercise ideas can we instill into youngsters to help them avoid injuries in later life?

I’m a firm believer that first and foremost flexibility may be the most important component of fitness and long term functionality.  Beyond that, I think all school age kids should gain a foundational knowledge of strength training as well as a variety of sports, lifelong activities, and potential cardio options. All of these can play a significant role in living a longer and more healthy life. Kevin McDermott, Physical Education/Social Studies Teacher at Woodbury High School

How Does Medicare Impact Workers’ Compensation Payments?Typically, Medicare coverage begins at age 65 when many individuals are retired and no longer working. However, there are instances where individuals are Medicare-eligible and still working. Medicare cannot pay for items or services that workers’ compensation will pay for promptly (generally 120 days). Medicare may make a conditional payment if the workers’ compensation insurer denies payment for your medical bills pending a review of your claim. If a state workers’ compensation insurance program denies your request for claims payment, you will need to provide Medicare with proof that the claim was denied. Pending review and approval, Medicare will pay for Medicare-covered items and services. Jesse Slome, Director of the American Association for Medicare Supplement Insurance

Conclusion

To summarize, there is a big difference between the types of physical activity contractors carry out on a building site, compared to the types of physical activity undertaken when someone exercises to keep their joints flexible and mobility at its peak. 

Starting with some basic flexibility exercises and low-impact training sessions can be a huge benefit to making sure that if you’re a contractor, you can stay injury-free on-site and in the event you do have an accident or are injured as part of your work, you can bounce back from it as quickly as possible.