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Construction physical ill health risks:
Repetitive work

Frequently repeated tasks (such as plastering or rebar tying) can injure the upper limb areas of the body. Do not accept these injuries as an inevitable part of your work. This page tells you how to control these risks and why. More detailed information is available on the upper limb disorders (ULDs) page.

What you must do

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 says you must provide work equipment that is suitable for the task being done. This includes making sure that the equipment does not place undue strain on the user. Follow the Assess, Control and Review model. Pay particular attention to:

Assess

Identify and assess: Construction sites have many different pieces of equipment for many different tasks. Not all of these will present an MSD risk. Establish the significant risks/tasks by considering:

The Assessment of Repetitive Tasks (ART) tool has been developed to help you identify higher risk tasks.

You will also need to consider any risks from manual handling loads that are linked to this work.

Control

Where the risks are judged to be low, simple and inexpensive controls will suffice.  For other tasks you may have to do more. Give priority to the greatest risks first.

Prevent: Think about  eliminating or reducing repetitive strain risks where possible. Consider:

Control: Even if you minimise some of the risks this way, you may still do other work that can involve significant repetition. Control the risk by:

Train: Tell workers about the risks from repetitive tasks and how to use the controls properly.

Review

Supervise: Ensure that controls are effective and properly used.

Maintain: Make sure equipment is properly maintained so the force needed to carry out the work does not increase.

Monitor: There is no requirement to carry out health surveillance. Currently no techniques exist for reliably detecting the early signs of ill health caused by repetitive tasks. Nevertheless, you can gain valuable information from less precise measures such as reporting, monitoring and investigating reported symptoms.

What you should know

Skilled construction and building trades are one of the occupations with the highest estimated prevalence of upper limb disorders. This is because some workers do tasks that are highly repetitive, often in awkward positions. Upper limb disorders (ULDs) affect the arms, from fingers to shoulder, and neck. They are often called repetitive strain injuries or 'RSI'. Symptoms include

It is important to report these symptoms as soon as possible so they can be treated / managed appropriately. The controls can also be improved to reduce the likelihood of the problem recurring once you have recovered.

Updated 2015-05-19