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May 1, 2014

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Ergonomics in construction: key considerations

 

Matthew Letley and Jim Lilley, head of construction and head of health and safety at Office Depot, offer advice on ergonomics in the construction industry and explain how to improve efficiency

While ergonomics has been a long focus for health & safety experts within the office environment, the focus should be no less important for those in the construction industry. There are two main drivers that health & safety experts need to consider when focusing on improving the ergonomics of a construction site: 

PPE 

It is vital to recognise that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to workwear choices will not improve employee well-being or safety. Workers in the construction industry are exposed to a number of hazards and health risks simultaneously. Employers therefore need to consider how different Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) items are compatible by addressing the hazards that staff face on a day-to-day basis before choosing clothing and equipment. For example, a worker in the construction sector may need eye, head and respiratory protection all at the same time.

Opting for cost over value is the first mistake an organisation can make when procuring PPE. Encouragingly, many organisations are opting for the opposite and paying more for higher quality items which provide greater comfort and are longer lasting.

 

Training

Introducing new tools or equipment on site doesn’t guarantee improved health & safety and staff wellbeing. In fact, change isn’t often accepted well and employee engagement is the key to overcoming any friction to change.

The training and consultation with staff who deal with the equipment on a day-to-day basis can stamp out any issues at an early stage. Regularly meeting with employees and understanding their frustrations can help to identify the causes of workplace accidents or injuries. Listening to employees and handing them responsibility will not only increase productivity but also ensure any changes are accepted more smoothly. Having protocols for introducing new equipment or tools makes change easier to put into practice.

Ultimately, ensuring staff are highly engaged and supplied with compatible PPE will improve the ergonomics of a construction site — the common denominator is consideration for the day-to-day tasks of workers. 

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