And if we include all the little scratches that we receive when dragging brush and climbing trees I am sure this is true.
But what I never hear is back injuries or strains, what is quite weird because I am sure that it is the most common injury.
Actually, it has become so common that if someone tells me a colleague is not coming to work because of a strain in the back, leg or arm, I barely register it.
So where do these body stressing injuries come from and are we able to prevent them?
The risk category is called “Manual handling”.
Manual handling means any work task or activity that requires a person to use any part of their muscular or skeletal system to lift, lower, push, pull, carry, throw, move, restrain, hold or otherwise handle any object. In essence, it is any situation where the worker’s body is used to carry out the work. (NZSAFETY)
In a case study of an Australian parks and city services division, 58% of the workers who carry out urban tree work from the ground and by using elevated work platforms reported injuries in a 3 year time period.
This amounted to a total loss in productivity per year of 48 weeks or $460,000.
Below I have listed the findings related to manual handling from this Health and Safety study by Bird and Franco.
- A 3.5 kg chainsaw with extended blade is not slower than a 6.5 kg saw.
- Operators report that moving bucket of EWP closer to the work reduces the strain on their bodies.
- Winch is effective in increasing efficiency and reducing musculo-skeletal stresses.
- Rotation of duties after tank of fuel is not an adequate control measure – will have to be timed by supervisor/leading hand.
- Team lift of heavy load is poorly timed. Training required.
- Some team members unable/unwilling to work with postural controls – training & supervision required.
- Right leg forward stance not universally accepted as best practice – confirm accuracy of this recommendation and include in training.
- Operators report there are still circumstances where large pieces of timber must be thrown to clear property below. Recommend trial of lowering devices.
- Cutting shorter lengths creates increased risks with feeding chipper. Winch or 2 person lifts.
- Stihl maxi combo (collapsible pole saw) is no lighter although it is fold-up, thus reducing the length and the musculo-skeletal stresses. Purchase for each team.
- Use of pole saw by resting/bracing against body needs to be clarified. Discuss in training working party and include in training. Also needs to be supervised.
- Starting chainsaw before entering bucket. Include in training and supervise.
- Starting chainsaw by resting on edge of bucket. Include in training and supervise.
- Regular sharpening of chain reduces body stressing. Include in training and supervise.
Suggested controls are in bold, risk reduction strategies are underlined.