Injury Rate on the Decline, Back Issues Still a Concern for Framers

Originally published by the following source: SBC MagazineJanuary 3, 2020
by TJ Jerke. Mindy Caldwell & Kirk Grundahl contributed to this article


A recent study by the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) found that the rate of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) has declined significantly among full-time construction workers, with 2017 at less than 23 percent of the 1992 level.

Mike Colcombe, NFC member and president of 5-Star Building Solutions in Kennesaw, Georgia, said he’s not surprised with the data trend. While he is thankful that he hasn’t had many MSD issues with his crews, he has seen innovation on the jobsite helping in this area.

For example, Mike’s framers use high pressure, pneumatic guns to shoot pins into concrete. He says the recoil of the gun driving a nail into concrete is very similar to a framing nailer shooting into wood. This ultimately helps reduce the recoil into framers’ arms and shoulders.

He says they are also experimenting with a vertical panel saw to cut wall sheathing in the field. “Conventionally, crews are leaning over in awkward positions to cut sheathing panels,” he says. “This saw allows them to be able to stand more vertically.”

In addition to “gains in efficiency and quality,” Mike’s experience is that 5-Star’s recent purchases also provide “a tremendous amount of safety benefit because they reduce overall abuse on the framer’s body.”

While on the whole the rate of musculoskeletal injuries is on the decline, the CPWR report also highlighted the fact that back injury remained the predominant body part affected by WMSDs in construction, accounting for about 42 percent of WMSDs in 2017. Mike recommends cross training employees so they are not doing the same job every day, which also helps manage certain MSD concerns.

“This reduces cumulative stress in the same spot and they don’t get bored, which can often lead to injuries,” he says. “Plus, it’s a benefit to them for gaining new experience and makes them more valuable.”

Toolbox talk on personal safety

To support framers in their efforts to prevent MSDs, the National Framers Council has included Toolbox Talks in its FrameSAFE program designed to highlight common workplace safety issues and general safety tips for proper body mechanics. “Lifting, Carrying & Pushing” and “Pulling, Reaching & Stooping” are available to FrameSAFE subscribers to download and promote the proper body mechanics that framers should use in the field. By using these safety training resources, framing crews can quickly walk through critical concepts that will manage MSDs and other issues.  

For the past two years, NFC has also partnered with OSHA in its Safe+Sound Campaign to create free resources for framers to use to raise awareness of the value of workplace safety and health programs. Page two of the set of 4 posters includes practices for avoiding overexertion and musculoskeletal injuries:

  • Do gentle range of motion movements to warm up muscles prior to starting each shift
  • Never assume the weight of an object solely based on size
  • Lift slowly and steadily, using your legs, not your back
  • Do not lift awkward-shaped items
  • Turn with your feet instead of twisting at your waist

CPWR’s 2019 report also includes a section with resources to help improve MSD management. In it, they include planning resources, infographics, their own toolbox talks, and games like “Lift Coach: Plan Your Route,” which forces players to create the best, safest route free from any hazards, and “Lift Coach: Plan Your Lift,” which helps players avoid actions that can increase the risk of being hurt. Both games can be found online or in your preferred app store.

National Framers Council FRAMESAFE program

Do you have a safety best practice to share on this topic? Contact staff at

For additional information on MSDs please also review the following articles:


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