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Which Is the Most Common Back Injury in Construction?

heavy lifting

Working in the construction industry in Indiana is grueling physical labor that puts tremendous strain on workers’ bodies day in and day out. Heavy lifting, repetitive motions, awkward postures — it’s no surprise that back injuries are extremely common occupational hazards for those building our homes, offices, roads, and infrastructure projects. 

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) involving injuries to the back, spine, muscles, tendons, and nerves account for a staggering 25% of all job-related injuries suffered by construction workers. And nearly 40% of those MSDs are back injuries specifically.

The extreme physical toll of construction work is evident when you look at the stats. In 2022 alone, construction workers had to miss an average of 12 days of work just to recover from injuries, including back injuries.

Back Injuries Construction Workers May Face

Which back injuries and conditions are the most prevalent risks facing construction workers in Indiana? 

Let’s examine some of the most common issues:

Strains and Sprains

Whether it’s lifting heavy materials, twisting while carrying loads, or sustaining sudden trauma in a fall, strains, and sprains to the back muscles and soft tissues are probably the single biggest back injury risk for construction workers. Repetitive movements and overexertion during manual labor easily lead to these painful injuries over time.

Herniated/Bulging Discs

The spine’s discs act as shock absorbers between vertebrae, but the extreme forces and weights construction workers routinely exert make disc herniations a common risk. When discs bulge or rupture from compression and overload, it can cause agonizing pain, numbness, muscle weakness and severely limit mobility.

Degenerative Disc Disease 

Wear and tear over many years of heavy labor causes intervertebral discs to break down and lose flexibility and hydration. As they deteriorate, it can lead to instability, pain, and even arthritis in the spine. Degenerative disc disease may eventually require surgery to repair or remove damaged discs.

Spinal Fractures

Getting struck by falling objects, being caught between equipment, or any strong impact on the spine runs the risk of vertebrae fracturing. These are extremely painful, potentially paralyzing injuries that require urgent treatment and could easily end someone’s construction career.

Increased Risks in Construction

Construction trade workers have varying degrees of risk for back injuries depending on their specific job duties.

Among the highest risk groups are:

  • Roofers
  • Wall/floor tile installers  
  • Drywall installers
  • Bricklayers/stonemasons
  • Jackhammer operators
back injuries

Heavy, repetitive lifting combined with working in awkward postures make these trades incredibly demanding on workers’ backs.

To illustrate just how much weight and strain gets put on construction workers’ spines throughout their careers, consider this example:

If a bricklayer lifts 200 bricks per day with each brick weighing 38 pounds, they are moving and carrying nearly 4 tons of weight every single day, just from lifting bricks alone. Over a 5-day work week, that’s 19 tons lifted. Over a year, a bricklayer has been moving and lifting well over 950 tons of weight.

When you stack up numbers like those over years and decades in the trades, it’s no wonder so many workers develop chronic, debilitating back pain and conditions like herniated discs by the time they’re in their 40s and 50s.

Tragically, many workplace back injuries ultimately prevent construction workers from being able to keep doing the jobs they’ve done their whole lives. Even if they can work through the pain for a while, these injuries often progress into lifelong disabilities making heavy labor impossible.

Protecting Your Back on the Worksite

There are ways construction workers and companies can take steps to reduce back injury risks as much as possible, including:

  • Using equipment/mechanical aids to move heavy objects whenever available
  • Lifting with proper form and posture techniques 
  • Having a coworker assist with any load over 50 lbs
  • Stretching and taking mini-breaks frequently to rest the spine
  • Alternating between heavy and lighter-duty tasks
  • Strengthening core and back muscles through exercise

However, given the physical demands of the industry, it’s impossible to eliminate back injury hazards for construction workers. At some point, wear and overexertion will catch up to everyone working these tough jobs for decades.

That’s why it’s so critical for construction companies to make safety the top priority, follow all OSHA regulations and guidelines, provide the right protective equipment, and create an environment where workers can report injuries or concerns without fear of retaliation.

The Importance of Reporting Work-Related Back Injuries

If you do suffer a back injury on a construction worksite in Indiana, you must report it to your supervisor and file an official workplace injury incident report immediately. Prompt reporting protects your rights to receive workers’ compensation benefits to cover your medical costs, wage losses, and potentially more if the injury leaves you permanently disabled.

Don’t assume your injury is “no big deal” or will heal on its own. Back injuries often worsen over time, especially if you try to work through the pain. Reporting it officially documents what happened and ensures your company can’t deny your claim later if complications arise.  

Contact Crossen Law Firm After a Construction Back Injury

In the unfortunate event that your back injury does leave you disabled and unable to return to construction work, consulting an experienced Indiana personal injury attorney is essential to protect your rights and make sure you get the full benefits you’re owed. The team at Crossen Law Firm is experienced in handling personal injury cases involving construction workers and will guide you through the legal process on your road to recovery.
While back injuries may be common in the construction trades, no worker should have to sacrifice their long-term health and well-being. Follow all safety protocols. Listen to your body. And if injured, speak up and fight for the compensation and medical care you deserve. Contact Crossen Law Firm today at 317-401-8626 or fill out our online form to schedule your free consultation.