ERGONOMIC SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR

CARPENTERS and FRAMERS


This SURVIVAL GUIDE is designed to promote awareness of safe work practices for CARPENTERS and FRAMERS. Please call 1-800-963-9424 for other trade-specific publications.


Two carpenters at commercial job site

What will happen to your family and your lifestyle if you get injured and can’t work? What will you lose if you get injured?

• Your salary
• Your quality of life
• Your job advancement
• Future job opportunities

AVOID THE PAIN & COST OF AN INJURY


What Makes You Hurt?

Most common injuries:
Back - 21%
Fingers/Hands - 15%
Knees - 7%

There are certain things in your job that can lead to fatigue, discomfort, or pain when you do them repeatedly or without breaks. These are:

• Performing the same or similar movement over and over without breaks, rest, or time for recovery.
• Exerting force to perform a task or to use a tool.
• Working in awkward positions such as bending, stooping, twisting, and overhead reaching.
• Remaining in the same position for a long time with little or no movement.
• Continuous pressure from a hard surface or edge on any part of the body.
• Working in extreme temperatures, such a climate or those produced by equipment or machines.
• Sitting on, standing on, or holding equipment that vibrates.

In addition, stressful conditions can increase muscle tension and reduce awareness of proper work technique.

Carpenter swinging a hammer

Carpenter bending over to pound nails

Carpenter kneeling on concrete floor

Carpenter using electric rip saw


AWARENESS


Prepare Yourself for Work

Just as a runner prepares for an athletic event by warming up, you would be wise to prepare for your work day by stretching and doing exercises.

• Stretch a few minutes before and during your work day.
• Stretch S-L-O-W-L-Y and hold each stretch 3 -5 seconds.

Caution: If you have any pre-existing conditions, check with your doctor before exercising. If you feel discomfort while exercising, stop immediately!

Carpenter exercising: Stretching lower back and hips     Carpenter exercising: Stretching lower back and hips

Stretch the Lower Back and Hips

Carpenter exercising: Stretching arm and shoulders     Carpenter exercising: Stretching arm and shoulders

Stretch each Arm and Shoulders

Carpenter exercising: Stretching legs     Carpenter exercising: Stretching legs

Stretch each Leg                      

While you are off work, keep yourself physically ready for returning to work whether it’s the next day or later.


Do I Have a Problem?

You may, if you have any of these symptoms:

• Continual fatigue or lack of endurance
• Cold hands, particularly in the fingertips
• Changes in the skin color of your hands or fingers
• Swelling
• Numbness
• Tingling
• Weakness
• Loss of sensation
• Aching, burning, or shooting pain

Where?

• Back
• Hands
• Neck
• Fingers
• Shoulders
• Knees
• Arms

If you experience symptoms, you must change the way you work or the tools you use. If you don’t change, your symptoms may get worse and keep you from working at all.


What Should I Do?

• Don’t ignore your symptoms. Bring them to your supervisor’s attention right away.
• Follow your company’s ergonomic program and Injury and Illness Prevention Program.
• Work with your foreman or supervisor to identify the cause of the problem.
• Always seek better ways to do your job.


SAFE WORK PRACTICES


THE WRONG WAY

 

THE SAFER WAY

Carpenter working in a bent or stooped posture

Working in a bent or stooped posture for a long time may cause fatigue and strain your lower back, neck, and shoulders.

Carpenter working while kneeling     Carpenter wearing knee pads

• Change positions (sit or kneel with knee pads) when working at or near ground level.
• Alternate bending with non-bending tasks.

Carpenter lifting a heavy beam by himself

Lifting or carrying loads that are too heavy may cause a serious back injury.

Two carpenters lifting a heavy beam together     Carpenter using a cart to transport materials

• Use teamwork and plan lifts to coordinate movements.
• Use a cart to transport materials.

Carpenter reaching out and overhead while using a drill

Working overhead and reaching for long periods of time may lead to lower back, arm, shoulders, and neck injuries.

Carpenter keeping the drill close to his body     Carpenter using a scaffold to work on high area

• Use a ladder, scaffold, or scissor lift.
• Stay close to the work.
• Use lighter-weight tools.

 


SAFETY TIPS


Make It Easy on Yourself

LIGHTEN YOUR LOAD. Plan what you are going to do. Carry only the tools or equipment you will need. Wear a tool belt that fits and distribute the tools and materials evenly.

Carpenter wearing tool belt

PROTECT YOURSELF. Avoid prolonged contact with hard surfaces and sharp edges. Wear knee pads, gloves, shoulder pads, or cushioned insoles in your shoes for comfort and protection.

Carpenter wearing knee pads

SELECT THE RIGHT TOOL. Light weight tools, such as titanium hammers, can help reduce fatigue and increase productivity. Choose tools that fit your hand and the task.

Framing hammer

KNOW YOUR SURROUNDINGS. Pay attention and watch for others working near you, behind and above you. Be aware of the tools they are using.

Carpenter wearing gloves to pick up scrap wood

PRACTICE GOOD HOUSEKEEPING. Pick up debris and scrap wood to prevent trips, slips, and falls. Use gloves to protect your hands. Bend exposed nails to prevent puncture wounds. Good housekeeping allows you and your equipment to get closer to your work.

Two carpenters working together, one on the floor, the other on a ladder


“Tool safety is important because you can hurt yourself permanently and never work again... or you will have to find another type of work that you don’t like doing” 

Bill H.


KEEP THE LOAD CLOSE TO YOUR BODY

Carpenter holding a 10 lb box close to his body

Carrying a 10 lb. object that is 10” from your spine is equal to 100 lbs. of force on your lower back.

LIFT SMART: Keep loads close to your body. The farther the load is from your spine, the greater the force on your lower back.

Carpenter holding a 10 lb box 25" from his body

Carrying a 10 lb. object that is 25” from your spine is equal to 250 lbs. of force on your lower back.

 


AVOID HEAT ILLNESS:
• Start work early in the day. Avoid extreme heat.Carpenter drinking water
• Wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing.
• Take frequent breaks in the shade.
• Drink water frequently before, during, and even after work. Drink water even if you are not thirsty.

WHY?
Heat illness can cause fatigue, dizziness and painful muscle cramps.

 

REMEMBER: HEAT ILLNESS CAN KILL IN LESS THAN ONE HOUR OF EXPOSURE TO EXTREME HEAT!


Cal/OSHA Consultation Service
Research and Education Unit


Writers and Editors
Zin Cheung
Rick Hight
Fran Hurley
Kristy Schultz

Page Layout and Design
Jitan Patel

Acknowledgments
We thank the following people for their support and assistance in the research and development of this guide:

Jim Albers - NIOSH
Joanette Alpert - Woodward, Alpert & Associates
Liz Arioto - Wentz Group
RJ Banks - State Compensation Insurance Fund
Bo Bradley - Harbison Mahony Higgins, Inc
Ed Calderon - Shea Homes
Leroy Cristopherson - Bolin Construction
Mario Feletto - Cal/OSHA Research and Education Unit
John Howard - NIOSH
Ira Janowitz - UC Berkeley/ San Francisco
Gene Kindy - KRC Builders
Stephen Grennan, Jeff Schobel - Body Response, Inc
Bill Hopkins - Sacramento Police/ Sheriff’s Memorial Park
Scott Schneider - Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of N. America
Laura Stock - LOHP, UC Berkeley
Corey Strack - Carpenters’ Local Union 152
Marti Stroup - AGC California
Susan Tingley - Ergonomics & Injury Prevention Services
Samantha Turner - Swinerton, Inc
Tom Waters - NIOSH


Cal/OSHA Consultation Programs
Toll Free - 1-800-963-9424
Internet - http://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh

FRESNO - CENTRAL VALLEY
(559) 454-1295

OAKLAND - SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA
(510) 622-2891

SACRAMENTO - NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
(916) 263-0704

SAN BERNARDINO - INLAND EMPIRE & ORANGE CO.
(909) 383-4567

SAN DIEGO
(619) 767-2060

SAN FERNANDO VALLEY - SANTA BARBARA & NORTHWEST L.A. CO.
(818) 901-5754

SANTA FE SPRINGS - L.A. METRO AREA
(562) 944-9366