Analyzing the Impact of Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Construction Industry
Musculoskeletal disorders might be severe, but employers in the construction industry can put precautions in place to minimize their impact on workers.
Friday, August 18, 2023
Section: OSHA

worker with back pain

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are common work-related ailments that are associated with a disorder or injury affecting the body's musculoskeletal system. They disrupt muscle movement, tendons, nerves, blood vessels and ligaments. If the condition is not treated early, it can root itself into severe health issues, potentially leading to immobility.

Surveys and Findings

In 1997, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a review of a study based on a detailed survey. It concluded that the poor work conditions that led to causing MSDs included regular lifting of heavy objects, overhead work, daily exposure to whole-body vibration, neck-work in chronic flexion position or repetitive performing of labor-intensive work. MSDs do not include injuries or body reactions caused by slips, trips, falls or any similar work-related incident. Some common musculoskeletal disorders include:

  • ligament sprain
  • muscle/tendon strain
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • tendonitis
  • epicondylitis
  • rotator cuff tendonitis
  • penalties and costs

Lost hours, absenteeism, compensation of workers and disruption in the workflow are some of the downsides that employers have to witness due to poor work practices.

The manufacturing and construction industries together accounted for more than half of all MSD cases reported in 2001. Moreover, there are over 70 million cases reported in physician's offices in the U.S. per year. About a decade ago, the worker's compensation for musculoskeletal disorders was between $45 billion and $54 billion annually. To prevent diseases, accidents and fatalities, all construction workers must acknowledge the necessity of getting OSHA 30 Construction training. You can start your OSHA safety training through Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) service, which will convert the payment into four manageable installments.

According to Liberty Mutual, cases related to overexertion injuries caused by pulling, holding, pushing, lifting, throwing and carrying objects—which are common in the construction industry— cost employers around $13.4 billion every year. In addition, as per the evaluation of OSHA, about 340 million occupational injuries occur throughout the United States annually. Therefore, it’s crucial to develop a sense of understanding about the potential workplace hazards that can cause severe accidents and difficulties in the progress of various job operations in the construction industry to avoid workplace injuries occurring in the workplace.

When it comes to the specific MSDs that cause high costs to employers, arthritis is one of them. According to the National Arthritis Data Workgroup, there were 27 million adults living with osteoarthritis, and 13 million reported symptomatic hand osteoarthritis. Occupations like agriculture and construction were among the industries at the forefront of having the most patients. This became the most crucial disease that needed quick regulations to ensure the safety of workers.

Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Construction Industry

In the construction industry, many different types of jobs are linked to several work-related injuries and diseases. Workers that paint and work overhead may experience neck and shoulder problems. Similarly, those who work at floor or knee level are prone to knee injuries. So here is a brief description of what situations lead to workers experiencing MSDs.

Forcefulness or muscle effort.

When workers exert force on their muscles in the wrong posture and angle, it causes muscle cramps and strains. The way you grip an object and the right spot from where you generate the force to pull or push the heavy object can affect your health.

Awkward body postures.

The second most common scenario is prolonged awkward body postures. Whether you’re an onsite worker or an offsite manager, you cannot force your body to stay in an awkward posture for a long time or do it regularly.

Repetitive work.

Screwing drywall, nailing and drilling are some common repetitive tasks in the construction industry. Doing such motions regularly and for prolonged hours causes muscle, joints and tendons stress.

Exposure to vibrations.

Using tools like jackhammers, chainsaws, hammers and grinders causes vibrations, and if your body is exposed to it regularly, it can cause Raynaud’s Syndrome. This is a condition where the blood vessels get restricted and narrow down in size, which creates even more problems in the flow of blood. The attack can occur on the fingers and palm or around the ear and eye area of the worker.

Contact stress.

When you use the soft skin and muscles of your palm to press tools and materials, it damages the tissues. It can damage the blood vessels and disrupt the flow to the tissues. This contributes to muscle strains which, if left untreated, can cause disability or body restrictions to certain postures.

Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Workplace

The proper usage of tools is one of the most important solutions to preventing MSDs at work. However, there are many other actions employers can take.

Provide management support.

When it comes to applying an ergonomic process, it's imperative for management to show optimum support. They should be able to define clear objectives and goals and discuss techniques and regulations with workers. Management should assign different responsibilities to all workers and make sure to communicate every policy.

Involve workers.

Management has to involve each worker to identify and resolve the issue. They should define the problem together, evaluate the scenarios and possibilities and then work on ways to eliminate them. It's important to know what the possible hazards at the workplace are. Moreover, management should carry out ergonomics assessments.

Provide training.

To analyze the MSDs among office workers, a study was conducted among two construction occupations: supervisors and bricklayers. The study revealed that the prevalence of MSDs was higher among the bricklayers than among the supervisors. Around 267 bricklayers had an MSD. Back and elbow Complaints were common along with waist and leg restraints. Even the supervisor reported the same issues.

Hence, this does not only emphasize implementing the right safety hazard regulations but also the importance of training your employees as well. They should know about their task, rights and health concerns. They should be able to protect themselves and those others who are working with them.

Identify the problems.

The only way one can make their organization MSD-free is by seeing the whole picture. You must identify the issue. You need to pinpoint those aspects and practices that contribute to the spread of MSDs.

Early reporting of MSD symptoms.

The next step is to ensure an early reporting of MSDs. You need to make sure that each one of your employees informs the management right away when they experience any kind of MSD symptom. The earliest you detect and cure it, the better and faster it heals. The progression of symptoms causes severity. So treat the problem in the first phase and take control of the situation.

Implement hazard control solutions.

There are many ways that you can prevent MSDs. First of all, teach your employees the right way to handle the tools and materials. Educate them about correct body postures. Create a sense of teamwork among workers so that each one of them helps each other.

Evaluate progress.

One of the most important aspects of implementing ergonomic principles is to ensure timely checks and balances and to carry out regular monitoring to evaluate the progress and performance. You need to periodically assess the effectiveness of your techniques to find out room for improvement.

Make sure to implement ergonomic principles in regular working practices instead of on a one-time project.


MSDs are severe but are preventable and controllable. As an employer, you need to have a proper checklist to stay up-to-date about the common practices and techniques that your workers are using. You must evaluate the impact and outcomes and find out better ways to keep your workforce safe.