Is construction hard on your body?
One of the biggest concerns people have about moving into the construction industry is how hard it will be on the body compared to an office setting. It’s a very fair concern, as working in construction has its risk. As an electrician, you will often find yourself in awkward positions, doing heavy manual labor, or repetitive motion tasks.
Thankfully the electrical trade and the construction industry in general has been taking ergonomics and safety much more seriously than they have in the past. For example, there has been an industry push to move away from a reliance on ladders, and more onto personal scissor lifts. This heavily reduces the risk of injury from falling off of a ladder due to leaning too far. There are also many more tools at our dispense to take the heavy workload off our backs, my favorite of which comes from the company Ditch Witch. They have a whole selection of pull or ride along trenchers that allows one person to quickly dig a very long trench, which saves the company money and me from having to hand dig it!
In the end though, there’s no getting away from the fact that construction is a physical job. Some trades have it worse than others as far as wear and tear go, and electricians sit comfortably in the middle of that scale. How intense the workload is is very dependent on the task on hand, and that can vary greatly between different job sites and the stages they are at. If you’re running a heavy conduit bank, you can be lifting heavy PVC pipes over your head and into a trench, before having to glue them together while in a less than favorable position. If you’re remodeling a kitchen however, you can be comfortably standing running new cable through the walls and wiring up outlets from a comfortable seated position.
It’s important to go into the trade, and every day on the job, knowing that there are physical risks of injury that you simply do not have in an office setting. Luckily, there are plenty of actions you can do to protect yourself.
Stretching is such an important role in preventing soft tissue injuries. So much so that many companies REQUIRE you to do a 5-10 minute “stretch and flex” before the start of every workday. If you work for a company that does not have this policy in place, it is highly recommended you do some stretching on your own to help warm up your body for the tasks that lie ahead of you.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Wearing the proper personal protective equipment, or PPE, will help keep you safe on the job site. Almost every company will require you to wear gloves, hardhats, safety vests, and safety glasses. There is one thing they don’t require that can probably make the biggest difference as far as taking care of your body goes. Knee pads! A lot of tasks require you to be kneeling, and take it from me, kneeling on concrete for hours a day is not fun. It also quickly causes all kinds of injuries and long term pain. Investing in a quality pair of knee pads is another key to healthy working.
I’m personally very partial to Troxell knee pads. I’ve gone through at least 8 different brands of knee pads, and none came close to be as comfortable as these. It’s a single wrap, thick foam, and leather on the outside to keep it lasting forever. I can wear these all day and they don’t bind up on my pants or otherwise feel uncomfortable, which is important if you want to be actually using them to protect your knees. I actually often wear them on my breaks because I forget I’m wearing them, they’re that comfortable.
Keeping yourself physically healthy and fit will help prevent overuse injuries on the job. You’re much less likely to pull your back during a heavy wire pull if your back is already used to that load on it, and if you know proper pulling form.
It can often be difficult to keep to a healthy diet on a job site, as the only food available on site is often a food truck or nearby fast food restaurants. Which is why I heavily recommend bringing your own lunches when you can. Personally, I enjoy meal prepping every weekend. This allows me to carefully choose the foods I will eat, the proportions, and to buy in bulk to save me money. Keeping your diet in check will help you and your body survive this career until you decide to retire comfortably.