The 5 Most Common Flooring Installation Job Injuries and How to Prevent Them
Serious injuries sometimes occur on the job, no matter what business you’re in. There are safety hazards in almost every career on the planet, but employees who work in manual labor (like home building, remodeling, and flooring installation) are notably more vulnerable. Whether it’s exposure to toxic chemicals, on-site accidents, or improper training, there’s a lot that can happen on the job that may put workers and, ultimately, businesses at risk.
As with anything, if you’re prepared, pay careful attention, and follow safety protocols, you shouldn’t fall victim to these issues. But, of course, accidents happen, so it’s always good to know what you can do to prevent them. To help with that, we’ve put together a list of the five most common flooring installation job injuries and how to prevent them.
1. Toxic Chemical Exposure
Laminate flooring is created with wood-bonding adhesives that can be toxic to animals and humans. It is known to contain certain toxins, including formaldehyde, isocyanates, aluminum oxide, and cyanuric acid. Exposure to these chemicals may cause cancer, asthma, kidney damage, and other serious injuries.
Formaldehyde can also be found in the glues and resins used to adhere and bond the various layers of engineered hardwood. Formaldehyde is colorless, and exposure can cause eye, throat, and skin irritation and cancer.
80% of wood finishes contain toxic chemicals and VOCs (volatile organic compounds), including polyurethane and turpentine. As a result, flooring installers with long-term, consistent exposure to either of these types of flooring may be at risk.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer these types of floors to your customers. Instead, you should take precautions during the installation process. Here are a few ways to protect you and your employees from exposure to toxic chemicals:
- Open windows and doors for ventilation.
- Use industrial fans to keep the air circulating.
- Provide safety tools and equipment, like masks, gloves, and eye protection.
- Monitor and ensure employees wear safety tools and equipment during the installation process.
This probably goes without saying, but you should also take the time to educate your customers. That way, they know what they can do to prevent harm and exposure from off-gassing and prolonged toxicity build-up in their home.
2. Shoulder and Back Injuries
Due to the manual labor aspect of flooring installation, contractors and employees must be careful to avoid serious bodily harm, including shoulder and back injuries. Back and shoulder injuries are often caused by accidents, heavy lifting, repetitive motion, and inactivity.
To avoid these types of injuries, employees should be given proper training, guidance, and safety equipment, including back braces and back support belts. Employees should also know how to lift and move objects without putting strain on their back or shoulders and should practice good posture.
As with most manual labor, the healthier and more fit you are, the less likely you are to injure yourself on the job. So, if you’re an employer, you could consider offering gym memberships, nutrition programs, and wellness initiatives as fringe benefits for your employees. Proper training, eating healthy, drinking lots of water, stretching daily, and strengthening your core are all great ways to avoid injuries.
3. Supervision Errors and Site Negligence
It may feel like an intimidating task, but it’s the responsibility of supervisors, project managers, and business owners to ensure that safety protocols are always being followed. With long hours, project deadlines, and fatigue, some things may slip through the cracks – that’s completely understandable. However, job safety can’t be one of them.
Supervisors should remain hyper-vigilant and watchful to ensure their employees follow safety protocols and use tools and equipment properly. Additionally, site maintenance and cleanliness should be a top priority. This will help prevent fall hazards, on-site injuries, and other issues caused by site negligence.
4. Knee Injuries
Similar to back and shoulder injuries, a knee injury is another hazard that particularly plagues the flooring industry. Installers can often be found hunched over and kneeling while performing their job. This is obviously the most effective way to work on the floor, but kneeling on hard surfaces for hours at a time, day after day, can be incredibly taxing on your joints, muscles, cartilage, and bones.
The most effective way to protect you and your employees’ knees is by providing and using knee pads and shock absorbers. They will prevent scrapes, punctures, fractures, and shooting pains when you’re forced to kneel on hard and abrasive surfaces.
In addition, there are a few other things you can do to prevent chronic knee pain and knee injury. Stretching, working out, and eating healthy are great ways to stay in shape and avoid damage. You and your employees should always wear proper footwear and safety equipment. If your knees start to hurt, shift positions, or take a break to reduce the strain.
5. Hands and Hardware
When you’re working with hammers, nails, saws, drills, and other equipment used during flooring installation, you need to know what you’re doing. Training and education are the keys to a safe work environment. Inadequate training and improper use of tools can lead to abrasions, punctures, fractures, and worse.
The best way to ensure that employees are safely using tools and equipment is to offer them thorough training and on-the-job education. Supervisors should monitor employees closely for proper technique and correct poor form when they see it. Plus, it’s also great to invest in high-quality hardware. Better equipment leads to fewer accidents, safeguarding against injury.
Combat Injuries with Education, Attention, and Specialized Equipment
When employees are hurt, it can have a devastating impact on an organization. Not only are you potentially losing a staff member during a time when employees are difficult to attract and retain, but you may also be responsible for worker’s compensation and possible lawsuits. As a business owner, supervisor, or employer, you must remain constantly vigilant and provide ongoing training, education, and specialized tools to ensure that your employees stay safe at all times.
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