Physical Plant


While the University is most often recognized as an institution of learning and research, underlying these activities are the work of numerous trade’s people and other skilled workers who keep our facilities operating. These include carpenters, electricians, masons, equipment mechanics, painters, and the many other individuals. Their work involves the use of various tools and equipment, heavy manual materials handling, and frequent work in awkward locations and challenging environmental conditions. This section provides an overview of some of these activities, the ergonomic exposures associated with them, and some solutions for reducing or eliminating the risk of injury from them.


Materials Handling:[click here for image]

  • Before lifting test the load to determine if it is light enough to lift,
  • Plan your route before lifting and carrying the load,
  • Instead of carrying one heavy load, separate it into smaller, lighter packages and make multiple trips, use a cart or trolley, or ask a co-worker for help,
  • Place or store heavy items at mid-body height to make retrieval easier,
  • Do not lift objects that are slippery, too hot, or unevenly balanced,
  • Make sure you can fit through narrow spaces and that your fingers are out of the way when you set the object down.

Lifting, Lowering, and Carrying Loads: [click here for image]

  • Keep your arms and the load as close to your body as possible,
  • Bend with your knees and let your legs and hips do most of the work,
  • Do not arch your back,
  • Use small steps when walking with a heavy load,
  • Do not use fast or jerky movements when lifting, especially when lifting heavy objects.

Pushing and Pulling: [click here for image]

  • Always use two hands when pushing or pulling. Do not pull with one arm extended behind your body,
  • Ensure that good visibility is possible without awkward motions such as twisting or stretching. If your vision is blocked when pushing a cart from the back, move to the front corner of the cart to push,
  • Keep your upper arms against your rib cage with your elbows in. Keep your hands at or slightly above waist level, Keep your feet shoulder width apart,
  • Bend your knees slightly and move the load by shifting your weight. For example, with one leg in front of the other, bend your knees and move the load by shifting your shifting your weight from your back leg to your front leg.

Vehicles: [click here for image]

  • Prior to use, inspect the vehicle from the exterior for any obvious defects or dangerous conditions,
  • Position seat, mirrors, radio, working papers, etc, at the start of shift to your size and configuration,
  • Avoid keeping bulky or sharp objects in pants pockets or utility belts when seated for long perioss of time,
  • Assess weight and position of heavy or awkward objects prior to moving them from trunk, vehicle cargo area or bed. Beware of any load-shifting and respect the force of gravity on tilting objects or stacked materials,
  • Pay particular attention to road and walk surfaces,
  • Maintain high visibility of and for other motorists, and use caution when stopping for loading or unloading,
  • Always wear your seatbelt no matter how short the trip is,
  • Remeber, Connecticut law prohibits the use of cell phones while driving.

Using hand and power tools: [click here for image]

The center of gravity of a hand or power tool should be aligned with the center of the gripping hand,
  • Tools with angled handles or tools with pistol-grips are beneficial where the force is exerted in a straight line in the same direction as the straightened forearm and wrist, especially when the force must be applied horizontally,
  • Know the job beforehand and selecting the right tools to perform the task(s)
  • Try not to bend the wrists when operating the tool,
  • Avoid high contact and static loading,
  • Try to reduce excessive gripping force,
  • Avoid awkward and extreme joint positions,
  • Reduce or avoid repetitive finger motions,
  • Limit vibration,
  • Minimize the amount of force to trigger devices,
  • Do not use tools in poor and/or dull condition.

Working in awkward locations: [click here for image]

If at all possible try to avoid working in awkward locations, If you need to work in an awkward location follow the tips listed below:
  • Try to keep the body in a “neutral posture”,
  • Use mechanical devices to help reduce/eliminate reaching when possible
  • Stretching before working in awkward locations,
  • Take frequent mini breaks,
  • Remember to have all tools required for the job in a easy to reach location
  • A “buddy” system may be required for some of these locations,
  • Use task lighting,
  • Ladders and elevated locations pose fall hazards. Inspect your equipment and/or location before starting work.

Temperature Extremes:

Both extreme cold and heat can be dangerous to your health - and increase our chances of physical accidents and ergonomically related injuries, Keep loads light and close to your body to avoid exertion,
  • For extreme cold conditions:
    • Dress in layers, preferable fabrics made of wool, cold weather synthetics or blends, and avoiding cotton which does not wick perspiration readily,
    • Stay dry - water and wetness decrease thermal retention of most fabrics,
    • Keep extremities covered, especially your head, since we lose most of our heat from our heads,
    • Avoid caffeine and tobacco products - they are well-recognized as vasoconstrictors,
    • Take periodic breaks in warm, dray areas to warm up,
    • Beware of ice, snow, and other hazards to walking and maneuvering.
  • For extreme heat conditions:
    • Wear Loose, comfortable clothing, preferably of natural fabrics,
    • Beware of the progressive signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke,
    • Take periodic breaks and drink plenty of fluids, avoiding caffeinated beverages,
    • If you are working outdoors, also pay attention to sun exposure by wearing a wide brim hat and using high SPF rated sunscreen,
    • Be aware that perspiration can make your grip slippery.