Asphalt crew members get two kinds of workers’ compensation injuries. First they may get hurt in a single traumatic accident such as a lifting incident that blows out a low back intervertebral disc resulting in low back disability. Or, an asphalt worker may suffer spinal degenerative changes or deterioration over time as a result of the hard, physical labor they do on a daily basis. Here are some of the asphalt crew job duties that can lead to a bad back or even an injured neck or cervical spine.
Asphalt workers surface roadways, driveways and parking lots. While some of the work is done operating machines to melt the asphalt, spread it and then smooth it, much must be done by manually. Laborers must prepare the surface and spread and smooth asphalt by hand.
With smaller jobs, crew members place the solid asphalt in hoppers or tanks, which heat it to liquefy. As it is spread, crew members must add more asphalt as needed so that a steady, even stream is applied. On large jobs, such as resurfacing a road, the asphalt typically arrives preheated and is ready to spread as soon as it is fed from the truck into the hopper.
Asphalt crew members unload and load equipment and materials on trucks at the start and finish of the day. They set up the equipment, including barricades, as needed, inspect it, clean it and perform routine maintenance or minor repairs.
Asphalt crew members must be able to lift, stand and walk continuously over long days up to 12 hours in extreme weather conditions. Crew members need fast reflexes, good depth perception and the ability to set controls quickly, precisely and repeatedly.
By hand, asphalt workers spread and smooth out stone, concrete, or asphalt on roadbeds. They must shovel and remove blacktop at times by hand. Occasionally, tamping machines must be manually rolled on surfaces to compact earth fills, foundation forms, and finished road materials, according to grade specifications. They have to place rolls of expansion-joint materials on machines.
In preparation they may have to break up pavement manually with jack hammers.
Asphalt crew members must be able to lift over 75 lbs. on a regular basis, as well as the ability to bend, twist, and turn at the waist without limitation. Workers who incur low back damage resulting in surgery such as a fusion may end up with permanent work restrictions preventing a return to work as an asphalt crew member. This may open up workers compensation benefits of retraining or a loss of earning capacity benefit settlement. Neck injuries are less frequent, but no less disabling.
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