Just like professional athletes, construction workers suffer injuries attributed to fatigue, overuse, repetition and poor management practices. The "construction athlete" puts his or her body through motions including bending, kneeling, walking, carrying and standing.
Now consider that productivity in the construction industry has been declining for the past 40 years, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some of the major issues causing this decline are the aging workforce, the rise of obesity and an expanding competition for experienced workers.
Lowered productivity, coupled with an inclination toward injuries, results in thinner profit margins. The challenge, then, is to increase productivity, efficiencies and quality while preserving your most vital resource: your construction worker.
When paired with some forethought and planning, one solution is to apply the principles of the "Lean" concept, which can reduce or eliminate inefficient motion and wasted steps on construction sites.
Motion is Money®
My colleague, Tom McAtee, CSP, Risk Control Director at CNA, says that two easy and basic concepts make Lean much easier in the construction industry.
- 20/20 rule. Keep materials, supplies and equipment within 20 steps or 20 seconds of the installation point. Walking on a job site is one of the biggest causes of wasted productivity. Think about it: Walking 50 paces takes 30 seconds, climbing up or down an 8-foot ladder takes 10 seconds. Those actions add up, especially when multiplied across an entire construction site.
This is where some planning pays off: Each job site should be organized so that materials are in place where and when they are needed. Work with the general contractor to set up a laydown yard. Then, only move the materials one time to the installation point by using wheeled carts or racks. This reduces the amount of material handling. If you are unable to create a laydown yard, consider having a contractor make deliveries directly to the installation point each day.
- 2-foot rule. Get materials, supplies and work areas off of the floor. This can be done by stacking three or four pallets on top of each other. Of course, some materials aren't able to be elevated off the ground, but many materials can be raised to reduce or eliminate an individual's bending motions. Ideally, work should be performed at waist height.
Continue to review your job sites for efficiency opportunities or improvements. Apply these two principles of the "Lean" concept to reduce wasted motions and keep your employees safe and healthy. Remember, motion is money.
Watch a brief video on how you can improve efficiency and productivity in the workplace.