Working positions

When your back or neck is twisted or bent, this can make for stressful working positions.

Working while lying down, crouching or kneeling and working above shoulder height are regarded as stressful work.

Stressful working positions are often caused by:

  • Poor project planning or inadequate planning.
  • Poorly designed work sites.
  • Work areas which are too high or too low (e.g. when working on floors, walls and panel, installing electrics and HVAC units, ventilation ducts, etc.).
  • Poorly designed tools.
  • Incorrect equipment (for the task and the person).

Poor site conditions are often the cause of crooked and stressful working positions which may cause back injury and tired muscles and joints.

Avoid or reduce working in a set position over long periods. This may be due to the layout of your work site or the design of your tools, for example. When working in a set position, the same muscles are under a static load for a long time, which results in muscle fatigue and hence a greater risk of injury.

The longer and more frequently you work in stressful working positions, the greater the risk of injury and pain. Quick, forceful movements increase the strain.

Work carried out horizontally or in a kneeling position

The position of the work site and conditions on site are very significant as regards strain on the back, neck, arms and knees For example, when there is too little headroom, work has to be carried out horizontally or in a kneeling position. Typical examples include working with insulation in roof spaces, when carrying out jointing insulation work at low roof pitches, brickwork construction below overhangs,or when renovating pipes and cabling in existing crawl spaces.

Horizontal and kneeling working positions should be avoided by predicting them during planning; e.g. it is possible to select a type of roof tile which does not need to be pointed or jointed, and it is possible to establish service corridors with a minimum clearance of 190 cm and a width of 60 cm.

In existing crawl spaces, horizontal and kneeling working positions can be avoided or kept to a minimum by means of method substitution – i.e. by placing pipes and cables around the area.

Always try to collect and prepare as much as possible while working under good conditions above ground level so that only the last connections have to be made in the crawl space. Shorter working days, supplemented with breaks and different work, help to reduce the risk of injury and harm. This will alleviate some of the strain on your body. Use a soft surface or, alternatively, some insulating material.

Kneeling work should be limited, e.g. by using a footstool instead. The employer must provide knee protectors or kneepads if longer-term kneeling work is unavoidable. Take care to ensure that the knee protectors do not stop the circulation in your legs.

Prevent poor working positions by laying out the work site according to the task, and use ergonomic tools. Also make sure that you regularly switch between different working positions and movements. This will distribute your work over different muscles, so reducing the strain on your circulation. Avoid working below mid-thigh height by by laying out the work site according to the task or by using height-adjustable equipment. If this is not possible, you must make sure that you switch between different tasks and take regular breaks.

Floorlaying, fitting ventilation ducts, various forms of electrical work and painting are all typical tasks where this may be necessary.

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Work site layout

Make sure you can stand and walk upright, that there is
space for appropriate working positions and movements, and that you have the option of using good working techniques when you organise the work site.

Working height is dependent upon the nature of the work and the height of the individual doing it. Workbenches, benches, trestles, etc. should be adjustable. If the work site is to be organised to suit several people or for a range of tasks, it should be possible to adjust the working height easily without using tools.

When selecting a working height, elbow height is taken as a starting point for both work carried out standing and work carried out sitting.

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Use adjustable work platforms, work lifts, column scaffolding or similar when working at an inappropriate working height. This helps to reduce the strain on the arms and back.

Distance

Workpieces and tools must be positioned in such a manner as to allow work movements to take place close to your body. Scaffolding, work platforms, etc. should be set up as close as possible to brickwork, façades, etc.

In the case of design work, it must be possible to tilt the desktop in order to reduce strain on the muscles in the neck, and it must be possible to walk around a little to get the circulation going in the legs. If design or office work is needed for any length of time at the building site, this must take place on premises where the fittings are compliant with the rules on fixed work sites.

Ambulatory work

The surface must be even, firm, tidy and well lit if ambulatory work is to be carried out. Also avoid level differences, particularly when tools and materials are transported. Tools and transport means must be long or tall enough to allow staff to work standing upright. Footwear should not be loose, it should provide good support and have the necessary protective properties. It is also a good idea to have shock absorbing features in the heels as this reduces strain on the legs when walking on a hard surface.

Make sure that there is as little lifting and carrying as possible when transporting materials and tools. This can be achieved by using suitable technical aids.

Monotonous, repetitive work

When the same simple work operations or movements are repeated over and over and the same muscles are constantly under strain, this is what is known as monotonous, repetitive work. This work often takes place at a fast pace and requires concentration and attention, while at the same time involving strained working positions with monotonous use of specific muscle groups. Therefore, your muscles – particularly in your neck, shoulders and arms – are almost constantly tense. This is very tiring and stressful for your body.

Working in a poor and perhaps fixed position with a lot of use of force increases the risk of industrial injury. This risk is worsened when the work site and tools are poorly adapted to suit the work.
Greater specialisation means a risk of tasks becoming even more monotonous and stressful, e.g. painting, iron binding, slot cutting, screwing in façade panels, roof panels or plasterboard, where the same tools are used every day. Monotonous, repetitive work can also occur during excavation and shovelling work or during bricklaying.
Make sure that you plan and vary your work in order to prevent muscle problems. It should be possible to set your own work pace and be able to switch between different types of task.

Ergonomic design and adaptation of the work site and tools to suit individuals can reduce the strain caused by monotonous, repetitive work when the work pace is not increased at the same time. Short, frequent breaks with options for other activities can also help to prevent injury.
Avoid monotonous, repetitive work by making fundamental changes to the planning and organisation of your work.

Monotonous work that places a strain on your body

When work takes place in fixed working positions, or in which an arm or leg is under particular strain is defined as monotonous work that places a strain on the body. Static holding and carrying work, work requiring attention and unvarying influence on the senses is also monotonous work that places a strain on the body.

This is often caused by inappropriate design of the work site and poor design of tools, as well as a lack of variation in work. This places a strain on the motor apparatus and circulation in particular, but there may also be mental effects.

Make sure that you vary your tasks allowing you to move around when you are working standing or sitting still for any length of time. Avoid taking on too many tasks where you have to hold tools and workpieces in the same position for any length of time. Breaks can also help to reduce strain.