The following is part one of an exploratory mini-series as we break down the basics of practical day-to-day lean construction methods.
Stretch and Flex
One of the most overlooked areas of risk management in construction is being proactive against preventable injury. Preventable injury by our definition is an injury that potentially would have been mitigated if an action, such as stretching, would have been performed to reduce the possibility of risk. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) would consider one of these types of injuries to be Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs).
MSDs are by definition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “injuries or disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, and cartilage that are caused, precipitated or exacerbated by sudden exertion or prolonged exposure to physical factors such as force, repetition, vibration, or awkward posture.” A few examples of MSDs that OSHA provides are carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, rotator cuff injuries, muscle strains and low back injuries to name a few.
This is important to understand because while studying trends of injury in the construction field we have found that the majority of recorded injuries, nearly 40 percent, can fall into the category of MSDs. To take it step deeper according the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 32 of every 10,000 construction workers (this includes laborers all the way to construction managers) will suffer a lost time injury from a MSD. This directly affects our jobs with added time and cost, as well as insurance exposure and a higher potential for loss of life due to compounding incidents that can result from an initial MSD.
OSHA recognizes and understand the necessity to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to workplace injury and has put together a ten-minute stretching regimen, called Stretch and Flex, this is designed to increase body mobility and target muscles that are most likely to incur injury in daily work practices. In construction, Stretch and Flex is an easy system to implement and can positively affect the flow of the job from a management and quality standpoint as well.
By taking ten minutes each morning with the field staff and all subcontractor staff on every job (regardless of size) we are able to cover the Stretch and Flex exercises as well as discuss the work events for the day and highlight any possible conflicting tasks between subcontractors that may not have been discussed otherwise. Stretch and Flex truly creates a win-win scenario, helping to mitigate the risk of injury while enabling communication between trade contractors and site supervision.
How does Stretch and Flex relate to lean construction and why should we as constructors, owners, investors, and the like care about it? The reality is that if we truly understand lean construction then we know, that ultimately by implementing lean practices, we are creating avenues to reduce cost, time, waste and exposure to our construction sequences while increasing the quality of constructability and the management control over each area of the construction process.
By taking the initiative of introducing Stretch and Flex to each of our job sites we are starting each day with a job site-wide awareness for safety, and a team approach to construction while non-verbally communicating our commitment towards quality control, organization, and ownership in all that we do. It is paramount that we have practices planned into our daily routine that focuses our teams on being safe and efficient.