Locator Safety & Appreciation Week (LSAW) is a celebration of utility locators’ hard work and an acknowledgment of the hazards they face every day in the field. Locators play crucial and often underappreciated roles in protecting the public and our underground infrastructure. Take some time this week to thank a locator in your life! We’ll be sharing locator safety content throughout the week to spread awareness of the difficult work they perform. Learn more about LSAW and how to participate at locatorsafety.com.
Locator Safety Hazard: Walking, Lifting, Bending, & Squatting
Properly performing locates can require long hours on foot, lifting heavy weight, and repetitive bending and squatting. These physical demands can’t be completely avoided, but even the most challenging of jobs can be done safely. Below is a list of common injuries on the job as well as a few tips on how to avoid them. The safety and health of every locator takes priority. Afterall, their work provides protection to infrastructure and safety to the public.
Time on Foot
Long periods of time walking are a natural part of a locator’s daily routine. However, prolonged time spent walking and standing (while performing locates, for example) can result in foot, leg, and back fatigue that can have cascading effects through a worker’s body. Fatigued workers are more likely to develop poor habits that further put their well-being at risk. Wearing more supportive footwear can help alleviate stress, but the ultimate tool for workers is being diligently aware of how they’re feeling. Taking breaks from being on foot before fatigue sets in can reduce the chance of more serious injuries occurring.
In the event that lifting is necessary on the job, proper lifting techniques should be followed. Weight should be kept close to the body and, when possible, remain between mid-thigh and mid-chest height. Locators should also be wary of repetitive and twisting lifts. A full guide to safe technique from OSHA is available here: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/electricalcontractors/supplemental/principles.html#lifting
Repetitive Stress Injuries
Even locators who perform tasks with proper form are at risk of repetitive stress injuries (RSIs), a gradual buildup of damage to muscles, tendons, and nerves from repetitive motions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one-third of all days away from work cases are attached to a musculoskeletal injury, such as an RSI. The most difficult aspect of RSI prevention and treatment is that they develop as gradually as they fade away. Workers are encouraged to take micro breaks to move and stretch if a job is requiring a repetitive or stagnant position.