The cumulative physical stress of job-related tasks, such as repetitive motion injuries, has made ergonomics an important workplace issue for the construction industry in the 1990s. Ergonomics is the science of tailoring work and workplace to the physical needs of the worker. In the construction industry, such maladies as carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain, and "vibration white fingers" have alarmed safety officials. To help employers deal with repetitive motion injuries, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued voluntary guidelines. If the voluntary guidelines become accepted by most industries, they may evolve into a federal safety law.

At an "Ergonomics in Industry" gathering in 1990, William Monroe Keyserling, a professor at the University of Michigan's Center for Ergonomics, cited forceful exertions (usually with the hands in awkward postures), localized contact areas between the work environment and the worker's body, vibration and extreme temperatures as hazards.To reduce lower back pain, ergonomists recommend using mechanical handling equipment, such as hoists, stackers, and lifts, rather than brute strength. Vertical positioners, turntables, and tilting devices can also be used to make many tasks safer and more comfortable for workers.