With the onset of the aging workforce and the changing demographics in the work environment, soft tissue injuries are the leading frequency and severity loss drivers in the construction industry. While it’s impossible to eliminate 100 percent of the risk factors that occur on a construction jobsite, much can be done to significantly reduce exposures.

Once a process to address musculoskeletal disorder risk factors is established, it can take 14 to 18 months of gathering data, working with managers and employees, and measuring the frequency and severity of injuries to see proof of positive results. During a long period of analysis, it’s easy to lose focus on the goal of reducing accidents. However, small changes that affect productivity, efficiency and quality can produce measurable results very quickly.  

Minimizing Movement for Maximum Productivity

Motion is money for a construction business, which relies on employees’ physical movements to accomplish job tasks. Recognizing opportunities to minimize movement is the start to creating a more healthful and efficient operation. Classic movements such as walking, bending, carrying, pushing, pulling and working overhead must be viewed as production and efficiency issues, not just traditional risk factors.

For example, how many times does an employee walk to pick up tools and supplies during an hour or a day? How long does it take for the employee to walk to these areas…six minutes, 10 minutes or longer? Multiply this by the number of employees walking and then by the number of days worked. This number will help reveal how much time is wasted each day by simply walking.
 Analysis of the Cost of Walking
Number of workdays per year: 250
Number of minutes walking: 10
10 labor minutes x 250 workdays = 2,500 minutes (42 hours)
Total number of employees on the job: 100
42 labor hours x 100 employees = 4,200 hours per year
Fully loaded rate: $50
4,200 labor hours x $50 loaded rate = $210,000
If every employee walks 10 minutes per day, it costs the company $210,000—a relatively conservative estimate of unproductive time. 

It Starts With Observation
Observing what really occurs in a company’s operations is critically important. According to the classic 2004 Harvard Business Review article, “Learning to Lead at Toyota,” the first lesson taught in manager training is no combination of indirect methods (e.g., reports, surveys and narratives) can possibly take the place of direct observation.

Spend 45 uninterrupted minutes observing every movement by every employee (walking, bending, carrying, etc.). Make notes about movements that seem unexpected or extraneous to the task. The more wasted motions are observed, the easier they will be to identify.

Annualizing is an important part of the process. Most supervisors see something happen once or twice and think it does not make a big impact; however, a different picture takes shape when the number of workdays per year is taken into account.

Affecting bottom line profitability by 3 percent to 5 percent can be achieved by understanding wasted motion or non-value-added motion during operations. Once a job task has been evaluated, work with operations, engineering or safety personnel to develop sound business solutions. Once these are put in place, re-measure the task for efficiency, productivity, quality and risk factors. Compare the two and determine how much savings has been achieved.

Everyone wants to look at developing and offering large changes that affect the overall operations, but small changes can have a big impact. Several months of observation and execution can directly affect bottom line profitability while reducing employee injury and risk.

Brian Roberts is a risk control director at CNA. For more information on CNA’s “Motion Is Money” process, call (866) 262-0540, email brian.roberts@cna.com or visit www.cna.com