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Construction workers and the high risk for back injuries

As a California construction worker, your job requires you to lift, hold and carry heavy construction equipment and materials on a daily, often hourly, basis. Therefore, your back suffers constant strain, and this strain takes its toll over time. It may surprise you to learn that musculoskeletal disorders among construction workers account for a full 25 percent of all work-related injuries, and nearly 40 percent of these conditions are the result of back injuries

Any type of musculoskeletal disorder causes you to feel pain, often severe, because it affects your back’s muscles, tendons and nerves. In 2014 alone, construction workers had to take an average of eight days off to recover from their back injuries, resulting in lost wages of more than $46 million.

Workers at highest risk

Regardless of the type of construction work you do, your job puts you at substantial risk for receiving a work-related back injury. Having said that, however, you have an even higher risk if your job specialty is one of the following:

  • Roofer
  • Wall or floor tile installer
  • Drywall installer
  • Jackhammer operator
  • Bricklayer or stonemason

Not only does your job put you at risk per se, your risk increases over time. The more years you put into your job, the more your repeated injuries, even the minor ones, have a cumulative effect on your body. Your back can stand only so much stress, strain and injury before it “gives out” and you suffer a permanent disability.

The famous bricklayer example

If you never before have come across a rather famous example of why the little stresses and strains you never think about build up over time, here is the bricklayer example. The underlying assumption is that you are a bricklayer who lifts a 38-pound brick about 200 times each day that you work. The accumulated tonnage you actually lift over time is astounding. Consider the following:

  • Each day you lift 3.8 tons.
  • Each week you lift 19 tons.
  • Each year you lift 950 tons.

Bottom line, your construction job requires you to be Hercules. But remember, Hercules was a mythical Greco-Roman god. You, on the other hand, are a human being, and your back was never meant to take this kind of punishment.

Whenever you suffer a back injury at work, make sure to get the proper medical treatment. Almost more importantly, make sure to take sufficient time off to fully recover before going back to work. That is what workers’ compensation is for. You have the right to file a claim against your employer and receive compensation, both for your medical bills and for your lost wages.

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