Calling all Carpenters: Do You Know the Injury Hotspots?

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Friday, May 8th, 2015
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The most common injuries and hazards for people working in the carpentry and joinery trade include wounds, lacerations and amputations to hands and fingers from nail guns, protruding nails, and sawing/cutting timber (21 per cent of injuries); back injury and muscle stress/strain from lifting timber, materials and equipment (17 per c ent); and traumatic knee injury due to strain from kneeling for long periods or slipping on uneven surfaces (11 per cent).

1. How to prevent injury to hands and fingers

Use power tools that are lightweight, low vibration, noise restricted and fitted with clutches and safety guards. Tools should be ergonomically designed so they are comfortable to use.

Never carry nail guns with the trigger depressed and power saws must not be used unless the blade guard functions properly.

Work gloves should absorb impact energy, provide protection from sharp edges and be puncture resistant. Ensure exposed nails are knocked in. Avoid working in front of your face and always work away from the body.

Repetitive strain is a quiet cause of injury. Rotate workers through a variety of tasks so they not undertaking the same task or holding the same postures for extended periods.

2. How to prevent injury to backs

Lifting incorrectly and lifting weights that are too heavy are commonly associated with back injury. Instead, try having bulky materials delivered to the final work location rather than moving them from an interim warehouse, or use mechanical load shifting devices (e.g. cranes, material hoists, forklifts, hand trucks) to move materials around the site.

Heavy or awkward loads should have lifting points or handles fitted. Often, by ordering materials in smaller size containers (for instance, bags of 20 kilograms instead of 40 kilograms) you can reduce lifting injury.

Back injury also occurs from falls or trips, so make sure to use the highest level of fall prevention measures such as guard railings, physical barriers or perimeter scaffolding.

Ensure all working areas and access points are clean, level, well-lit and in good repair. Remove unwanted material and construction waste regularly from the work site and ensure construction materials, power leads, tools and equipment are handled and positioned carefully to avoid tripping hazards.

Rotating workers through a variety of tasks to avoid repetitive strain is also a great habit to get into.

3. How to prevent injury to knees

To reduce strain on knees, use tables, benches or stands to bring work to waist height or use tools with extension handles (e.g. nail guns and caulking guns).

Provide personal protective equipment (e.g. knee pads) and rotate workers through a variety of tasks.

Workers ought to be encouraged to ‘take it easy on their body’ and lighten their load. Plan the work and carry only the tools or equipment required. Wear a tool belt that fits, and distribute the tools and materials evenly.

Choose protection. Avoid prolonged contact with hard surfaces and sharp edges. Wear kneepads, gloves, shoulder pads, or cushioned insoles in shoes for comfort and protection.

Select the right tool. Lightweight tools such as titanium hammers can help reduce fatigue and increase productivity. Choose tools that fit hands and tasks.

Good housekeeping: Pick up debris and scrap wood to prevent trips, slips, and falls. Use gloves to protect hands. Bend exposed nails to prevent puncture wounds. Good housekeeping allows workers and equipment to get closer to the work, reducing further risk of falls, overstretching and injury.

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