Overhead work

August 1, 2012

Certain job tasks on a construction site, such as drilling, driving fasteners or finishing drywall, may require workers to raise one or both of their arms above their shoulders. These tasks may lead to a number of injuries, including tendinitis, rotator cuff tears, arthritis, sprains, bursitis and tension neck syndrome (muscle strain caused by looking up).

The risk for injury can increase if a worker is holding materials above shoulder height, twisting his or her arms in an awkward position, working with unstable footing, frequently flexing the neck, or performing repetitive movements combined with force. NIOSH suggests taking the following steps to reduce the risk of injury when performing overhead work:

  • Limit the amount of time spent working overhead.
  • Avoid lifting, holding, and positioning heavy or awkward objects with raised arms.
  • Consider using bit extensions for drills and screw guns.
  • Use mechanical lifts or hoists to position building materials.
  • Encourage the use of tools that bring employees closer to their assignment.
  • Monitor the number of tasks that require overhead work.