In response to an increase in prefabrication work performed by electrical contractors, OSHA recently added a new module to the agency's “Ergonomics Solutions for Electrical Contractors” e-Tool, developed with input from Alexandria, Va.-based Independent Electrical Contractors, Inc. (IEC), as part of its OSHA alliance.

Through the increasing popularity of alternative project delivery methods, such as design-build and design-assist, many contractors are more involved in the planning process, giving them additional prefabrication opportunities.

“We try to employ prefabrication as much as we can across the board, whether it's a plan and spec job or a design-assist or a design-build,” says Steve Juan, vice president of pre-construction services, Guarantee Electrical Co., St. Louis. “We're doing it a lot in hotels and condo projects, and we're even starting to employ some of that in hospitals and other areas where we're doing repetitious work.”

Although prefabrication itself can lessen many ergonomic risks for electricians, it may create other hazards, especially from the repetitive movements, heavy lifting, awkward or static postures, and contact stress required by the work.

“The prefab side is taking any component of the work that's repetitious and providing those products in a pre-assembled fashion and having things ready to be put in the jobs earlier,” Juan says. “We have a separate shop for that in our warehouse and have numerous electricians in there. We probably average 10 guys in there and sometimes more.”

OSHA's module lists possible solutions to reduce hazards caused by performing prefabrication work as they relate to various activities, such as bending conduit, cutting and spooling wire, and welding and assembly tasks. To view the module, visit OSHA's Web site at www.osha.gov/dcsp/products/etools/electricalcontractors/prefabrication/index.html.