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Shouldering the load

03 March 2022

Construction workers and scaffolders often carry heavy materials on their shoulder, leading to time off sick, pain and long term injury. Brian Turner explains the extent of the problem and an insight into protection.

TIME OFF SICK. Three words to send shudders through any construction worker, scaffolder or anyone who has spent the majority of their working life lifting heavy equipment on their shoulders without any suitable protection. Shoulder problems are not just present in working life for people in those industries, but in later life too, when these injuries evolve and result in serious problems. 

The new generation of construction workers are becoming more aware of the injuries and pain associated with incorrect or unsatisfactory equipment.

The money earned as a construction worker or scaffolder can be fantastic and I’m sure is one, if not the main incentive to join the industry. What happens, however, in later life when, due to shoulder injury, the extremely attractive pay deals cannot be earned due to time off as a result from not protecting the extremely complicated joint that is the shoulder.

I personally suffer with ACJ issues and Bicep Tendonitis. This is where the Acromioclavicular joint has been damaged along with the clavicle(collar bone) which I have fractured several times, producing a build-up of scar tissue resulting in displacement of the bicep tendon in the shoulder joint. I have had X-rays, MRI and Ultra-sound scans along with Guided Steroid injections and countless physiotherapy sessions and chiropractor visits. These all come at a cost: To the NHS, resulting time off work and personally paid for sessions never mind the non-tangible cost of severe pain, frozen shoulder, reduced mobility and the reduced ability to carry out the tasks required to a standard expected.

This not only has an impact on the individual worker but an impact on the company from the site managers being short staffed and having to find replacements but the overall logistical labyrinth that could ensue due to site regulations and inductions needed to bring replacement workers onto an existing project. This could incur penalty charges in some instances even though contingency plans would be in place, it still takes manhours to implicate and organise. The effects are not only clear to see at work but could impact on home life and leisure activities as well, an all-round lose:lose situation. 

As the internet and social media has opened a world of connection, the ability to get information and contact people from around the globe results in people being able to get in touch with so many more people and gain information, not always correct information, but unlike the “good ol’ days” where the social media site was the local pub the network of connections is vast. This lets people to get in touch with a lot of different companies and individuals offering a range of services. One of them being industrial injury lawyers.

Avoid lawsuits

Compensation claims can run into the tens of thousands of pounds and with the birth of the ‘no win no fee’ culture the likelihood of a lawsuit is ever increasing. This not only costs companies millions of pounds, but the time and paperwork involved can be intense. By providing staff with the option of shoulder protection the company is pro-actively acknowledging there is a solution, similar to the long sleeve Tee shirts supplied for UV Protection, helping to protect the wearer from potential Melanomas, eliminating the accusation of inadequate provision of protective equipment in the workplace.

During my research into this matter, I have found that the vast majority of cases have been settled out of court with a non-disclosure agreement in place.

I do know of one large electrical contractor who was sued for a shoulder injury caused by carrying armoured cables resulting in a frozen shoulder. The case was settled out of court and cost the company tens of thousands of pounds.

Company owners and many hard-working individuals spend their lives battling a problem that, up until now, seemed unavoidable. There will always be the minority of hardened individuals who look at our product as being a bit of a “softie’s” approach, however, these same workers wear hardhats, steel toe capped boots and other PPE items. 

We are currently working with CHASNZ, a not-for-profit organisation in New Zealand specialising in the principle that WORK SHOULD NOT HURT! This motto being part of their brand logo and the main objective of the organisation. We communicate regularly with the Programme manager, Chris Polaczuk keeping them abreast of our product development and testing results.

We aim to provide protection to the construction workers of New Zealand along with the rest of the world once we have covered the UK and Europe.

We have entered correspondence with The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, through an endorsement from Andrew Jones MP, former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, following a meeting and demonstration of the benefits of the Scaffshirt.

He agrees that the construction industry is ever changing and employers and the new generation of construction workers are more aware of the ramifications of the provision of the correct equipment for the job, the just make do attitude is very quickly disappearing from modern day workplace environment. The lean is definitely towards a more Considerate Construction workplace. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way anymore, thanks to The Scaffshirt.

Shoulder the load.

Carefully developed over a number of years to meet the highest quality and safety standards, The Scaffshirt by GAAARD Protection is the answer to the problem thousands of scaffolders and construction workers have battled for years. A European Design Right protected garment, The Scaffshirt, is a high-quality protective workwear garment which has accompanying weight bearing shoulder pads to provide support for the shoulder joints which need it the most when carrying heavy items. The padding alleviates pain, reduces injury and corrects the posture and gait of those who wear it. It is a blatantly obvious solution: similar to sleeping on a wooden bed frame without a mattress to sleeping on one with a mattress. 

It’s never too late to start with the Scaffshirt. The load bearing and weight distribution properties of the EVA foam pad lends itself to fantastic rehabilitation. The way the load is spread away from a directly damaged area allows the user more comfort and resulting in less pain and discomfort. We were commissioned to manufacture specialist kneepad holders for a post operative knee replacement client. The results were excellent, allowing the person the ability to return to work significantly sooner than was expected as his work involved a lot of kneeling down and the design of the pad eliminated the pressure that normal kneepads would have placed upon the new patella.

GAAARD Protection are working with the BSiF and this, alongside the medical research being carried out at Bradford University, will validate the performance of The Scaffshirt range. We have undergone an Audit from the BSiF to which we have passed with flying colours and are gaining BSiF Accreditation for Quality management, this supporting our claims of our product being heads and most definitely shoulders above the competition for quality.

Our board boast the inclusion of Doctor Michael Stone, doctor of Physics, who when approached for a clinical report was so impressed with the product asked to join the Board to help with the progression of the range of products and their development in the workplace.

The Scaffshirt range doesn’t just stop at construction workers, we have samples on test with the RAF. Their cadets are obliged to wear high visibility vest when on training exercises and as the cadets are not usually fully developed adults, the heavy rifles they must carry are always a sore point, excuse the pun. Squadron Leaders are already testing the Miniviz with great results and extremely positive feedback and we are looking at rolling out the Miniviz once we have attained NATO type approval.

The GAAARD Pads are manufactured from 3D Sculptured EVA compression padding which sits discreetly in the Oxford Weave pockets that are on each shoulder of the garments. These pockets provide abrasion resistance and are waterproof to save your shoulders becoming soaked and cold. In simple terms, the garment is durable, is built to last and gives workers and companies peace of mind that they will all be protected. Furthermore, the range by GAAARD Protection meets all health and safety visibility requirements needed for safe site work and are UKCA and CE certified. This along with the EN20471and RIS3279:TOM2015 for the Orange garments accreditation gives our range of Miniviz, T shirts, Polo shirts, Sweatshirts and Hoodies the quality assurance of fantastic build quality and safety rolled into one.

Prevent future injury

It’s not all talk either, it works! A study conducted by Erasmus University, Rotterdam concluded that a padded shoulder will prevent future injuries in those who wear it, after numerous case studies into the strength and protection the product provides workers. We have tested the compressibility of the pad on our cyclic pad testing machine: 

Compression from 15mm down to 6mm over 2.8 million times!

This, I imagine, far exceeds the number of lifts carried out in a working week! Furthermore, companies who have tested the product across Europe in countries such as England, Ireland and Sweden, all of which reported positive feedback after rigorous trials on site.

All the GAAARD Protection range lends itself perfectly to personalisation and branding, having in house design, print and embroidery facilities to make your company stand out and look professional safe in the knowledge they are at the forefront of worker wellbeing.

Brian Farmer is managing director at GAAARD Protection. For more information, visitwww.gaaardprotection.com