Electricians often perform repetitive motions, twist their bodies in awkward positions, and handle heavy materials. To protect their field workforce from strains, sprains, and career-inhibiting injuries, many of today's top electrical construction firms are focusing on ergonomics.
By investing in ergonomic tools and properly training their electricians on safe work methods, contractors are maximizing their workers' productivity as well as their safety.
Firms can prevent workers' repetitive strain injuries, minimize electricians' fatigue and discomfort, and help avoid long-term injuries through ergonomics. While today's electrical contracting firms are not legally required to follow specific ergonomics rules and procedures, it does not preclude them from following safe work practices.
Experts advise electrical contractors to make sure that its electricians are properly trained and equipped to handle any task in a safe and efficient manner.
What exactly is ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the science of designing a job to fit the worker, rather than forcing the worker's body to fit the job. It's the process of developing workplaces and systems that fit the individuals who use them. Ergonomics aims to improve the workplace's space and environment to minimize injury on the job.
How Ergonomics Impacts Health
Electricians are constantly exerting force to perform a task or to use a certain tool. They are working in positions that may cause tension on the body, such as:
- Overhead Reaching
In addition, stressful conditions can reduce awareness of proper work techniques.
Small injuries may cumulate to become larger disorders. Cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) can develop from gradual injuries or stress. Other names for these types of issues include repetitive stress injuries or repetitive motion injuries. According to the Department of Labor, in just four years nearly $10 million in employee compensation claims from the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) were connected to ergonomics.
If an electrician is developing a CTD, symptoms may include pain, numbness, swelling, aching, tingling, burning, or loss of strength.
Hands-On Training for Electricians
To drive home the importance of ergonomics, electrical construction companies must offer training sessions for their electricians — not only in the classroom, but also out in the field. "We are firm believers in hands-on training," advises one expert. "You need to do more than just stand in front of a group and tell them how to do this or that. You need to actually go out into the field, give the electricians the equipment, and demonstrate the proper use. If you show them rather than just tell them, they will listen and learn more."
To be successful, companies should consider training their electricians in small groups. "If I have 10 to 15 electricians, I know that I'll have two or three workers that are just in the class to kill time," the expert says. "If I have six to 10, I know my training will be effective and it will involve all of them."
Tools and Technology
Training electricians is a key part of a company's ergonomics program, but firms must also consider investing in the proper tools and equipment. Some firms require electricians to bring their own basic hand tools, while other's provides most of the equipment to the field workforce.
Over the last decade, many companies have focused on swapping out corded tools with battery-operated products. As the technology of these tools has improved, so has the battery life.
In the past, electricians usually only had one battery option for their tools: a 12V battery. Now, the electricians can use 14V and 18V batteries in their tools and use on-site recharging stations to power them up.
On every job site, nearly every tool is battery operated now, and that has really enhanced the industry," the expert says. "Workers can now get a lot more done in a shorter period of time." Battery-operated tools have two significant advantages. First of all, electricians no longer have to face the hazard of tripping over cords on the job site. Second, electricians can set the torque on battery-operated tools to prevent injury.
Get the Job Done Safely by Understanding Ergonomics
Electricians are constantly doing work that can push the limits on their body. Ergonomics is important to understand to ensure that the job at hand is completed efficiently without causing harm. And remember, it’s all about making the job fit your body, not the other way around.