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#58878 - 11/22/05 04:46 PM physical demands of the trade
doggz109 Offline
Junior Member
Registered: 05/25/05
Posts: 5
Loc: San Francisco, CA
Hello everyone! This will be sort of long but I just had a few questions regarding the physical toll this trade can take on your body.

I am a new apprentice (have been working 6 months) and I have been enjoying working in this trade and learning as much as possible. I am enrolled in a NECA/NJATC program with my local union and have rotated between many commercial projects so far.

My question revolves around the physical toll this work takes on you. At least half the journeymen I have worked with have had surgery to correct a problem that was caused by the trade. A good number more live with chronic aches and pains and more than a few are using legal and illegal drugs to combat the pain.

I'm young and in fairly decent shape and even I am starting to develop some chronic pain in my wrists and ankles that wasn't there 6 months ago. Is this common for the trade? Do most craftsmen just live with it their entire lives? Are there things I can do to slow this "wearing down" process? I know we all get older but a lost of these guys are in their late 30's and early 40's and some have had 3-4 surgeries already!

I want to continue in this trade but I am starting to have my doubts if it is going to wear down my body this much. Don't get me wrong - I am a very hard worker and I'm not just complaining about working hard or dealing with a few aches and pains. I'm talking about real cumulative damage to your body. Any thoughts or advice on this topic is appreciated. Thanks!
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#58879 - 11/22/05 05:09 PM Re: physical demands of the trade
Out Of Phase Offline
Registered: 11/02/05
Posts: 19
Loc: Wiltshire, England
A E/C I work with sometimes who's a lot older than me and has been in the trade a long time insists on me either kneeling on a cushion or using knee pads, he has to take medication for the pain from years of kneeling on concrete and on steel, so start from the beginning and use knee protection!
#58880 - 11/22/05 07:18 PM Re: physical demands of the trade
hbiss Offline
Registered: 12/16/03
Posts: 886
Loc: Hawthorne, NY USA
No doubt this trade can take it's toll on your body- back, knees and wrists are common complaints. But if guys in their late 30's and early 40's required multiple surgeries because of job related injuries something is wrong. That's not typical and if you are begining to see problems yourself after only 6 months perhaps you need to look closer at your work habits and maybe even what you are required to do.

#58881 - 11/22/05 07:38 PM Re: physical demands of the trade
gfretwell Online   content

Registered: 07/20/04
Posts: 9039
Loc: Estero,Fl,usa
Crawling around on the floor is probably the worst thing on your body. Knee pads or using some kind of seat/toolbox is probably the best solution but you won't really be willing to do either until you are already injured. Don't "duck walk"!
I also managed to come up with arthritus in my thumbs and carpel tunnel.

Use eye protection all the time. Sparks, flying objects and errant wires can "put your eye out".
Greg Fretwell
#58882 - 11/22/05 08:18 PM Re: physical demands of the trade
Jps1006 Offline
Registered: 01/22/04
Posts: 615
Loc: Northern IL
Don't be a macho man. I have little respect for the guy who will throw 400' 1/2 EMT on his shoulder. My limit is 200' unless I'm still warming up, then 100.

I would recommend from personal experience to excercise. Don't consider physical labor as exercise. A good workout invloves high heart rate and intake of fluids, there is a physical change that occurs when you saturate a working muscle with oxygen saturated blood. Stretches and form. Light weight high rep, again no need to be macho.

I recommend a spa type gym verses the muscle head type, but that works better for what motivates me.

Again, all this from personal experience. When I consistantly got to the gym (over due, will be getting back soon) my chiropractor visits were greatly reduced, my knees, back and shoulder never felt better. Plus I found those sore (good sore, workout sore) muscles helped keep good form when doing heavy work, reducing the risk of injury.
#58883 - 11/22/05 10:36 PM Re: physical demands of the trade
e57 Offline
Registered: 05/27/03
Posts: 2876
Loc: S.F.,CA USA
Mmmmm... Pain!

Let's see.... Can't sleep do to lower back pain sometimes. Knees hurts so bad when the rainy season starts that I think about using a cane, like I thought about on my way home today. But thats due to herititary arthrisis and various other injuries. (Including falling off ladders and scaffolding. And bike wrecks, street fighting, and break dancing when that was cool...) Wrist aches periodicaly... That said, I never need more than a few aspirin, and I reserve them for the hard days! If someone needs illegal drugs to manage pain, they did not get that injury at work, (unless they are a burn victim) sounds like an excuse for entertainment to me.

My advice... Knee pads or Skillers Pants (With built in knee pads) They have actually helped me alot. Lift correctly, and do not over exert. Back brace if nessesary for heavey lifting, it will keep you from abdominal hernia, and if worn often is a great reminder for good posture. Avoid repeatitive motion on the wrists, and use lighter wieght, more ergonomic tools. Knipex and WiHa make fine lightwieght ergonomic tools. Avoid being that moron with all the tools he doesn't use all day in bags that weigh 25lbs not including the 10lb 18v over-powered hammerdrill/drill used as a screwdriver that he does everything with. If your doing commercial jobs, there is also nothing wrong with having your own rubbermaid cart personalized for the long haul with over-sized phematic tires and a small radio. Demand a clean work site for easy rolling of your ride, and it will probhably due well for your ankles too if you're not stumbling over crap on the floor. If not sweep it aside yourself...
Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason
#58884 - 11/23/05 07:42 AM Re: physical demands of the trade
renosteinke Offline
Cat Servant
Registered: 01/22/05
Posts: 5316
Loc: Blue Collar Country
I'm quickly coming up on 50....and so far, I've been blessed.

My aches & pains tend to be of the dull, annoying sort you usually get from doing more of something in one day than you've done in the past six months. Stay off the lader for a bit- then spen a day changing lights...I'll feel it at the end of the day!

More annoying has been a lesser amount of flexibility and agility.

Our trade isn't one that requires extreme physical strength or stamina. Unlike some trades, we don't spend all day in one position. And, as we gain experience, we seem to spend less time pulling wire and more time trouble-shooting and hooking up controls.

Doggz, what you describe sounds like a simple case of you're developing some muscles you never knew you had. The same thing happens in boot camp; all sorts of mystery aches show up as you start doing things you've never done before. Something as simple as hanging a radio on your belt will cause some stiffness, until your body adjusts.
#58885 - 11/23/05 07:55 AM Re: physical demands of the trade
lamplighter Offline
Registered: 10/05/05
Posts: 101
Loc: Clawson,Michigan,USA
As a union apprentice, your instructor should have already told not to lift anything by yourself that you can lift with two people. As for the demands of the trade, you will see many, many small cuts and scrapes from commercial grade flourescent fixtures, sore ankles from ladder work, sore knees from kneeling, sore back from installing receptacles over kitchen cabinets, pulled muscles in your back from pulling the bigger wire, sore thumbs from pushing wires back into boxes, etc.
My suggestions would be to get the most comfortable work boots you can afford, always wear your PPE (hardhat, safety glasses, gloves when needed)and work smarter rather than harder.
I am a third gen. electrician after my father and great uncle and both of them made it out of the trade relatively unscathed. My dad still has minor problems with his knees but, at his age it's to be expected.
Just take it as easy as is feasible and don't take unnecessary risks. You'll be fine.
#58886 - 11/23/05 01:40 PM Re: physical demands of the trade
Fred Offline
Registered: 04/30/01
Posts: 449
Loc: Straughn, IN 47387
My uncle(wife's side) is also an electrical contractor. He doesn't allow anyone to sit down on his jobs(mostly residential)when roughing or trimming out receptacles. I think he's an idiot, and a cold hearted one at that. I insist my help seek the most comfortable positions to work in, within reason. This guy makes everyone do things the hard way and then complains about worker's comp claims. What's the point in that? I provide roller stools, knee pads, gloves, safety glasses, portable fans in hot weather and LP heaters in the cold. I also provide good strippers, dikes, screwdrivers and lineman's to work with. Whatever makes the job easier while maintaining/improving quality. Everybody wins.
#58887 - 11/23/05 04:08 PM Re: physical demands of the trade
Trumpy Offline

Registered: 07/05/02
Posts: 8211
Loc: SI,New Zealand
Hi there doggz,
Welcome to ECN!.
We had a similar thread here a while back.
You can see it here .

Hope this helps.
Let's face it, these days if you're not young, you're old - Red Green grin
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