August is Tradies National Health Month, and We’re Shining a Light on One of The Most Prevalent Industries in Australia
August is Tradies National Health Month, when we highlight the health and safety challenges tradies face daily.
While this focus is pretty much the norm over here at OHS Compliance Solutions, we’d like to take the time to appreciate the perils our tradies face every day in the course of their jobs.
Tradies National Health Month takes place every year to bring attention to the injuries affecting those who work in trade occupations and their employers and families.
Tradies are classified as technicians, trade workers, labourers, machinery operators, and drivers. The constant risks and challenges they face don’t just threaten not only their lives but also their livelihood, as their bodies are also the tools needed to do their jobs.
Despite making up only 35% of the Australian workforce, tradie injuries are in the majority, with 3 out of 5 serious workplace injuries involving tradies. Since the trade industry helps drive our economy, tradies’ health should be at the forefront of our minds.
In our continued efforts to support tradies, OHS Compliance Solutions provides a number of resources on our website and social media channels. Part of this support is also shining a light on the issues that face tradies in our monthly blog.
There is a lot of information available regarding the injuries tradies are at risk of, so here is a breakdown of some vital stats:
- As mentioned above, tradies make up 35% of the Australian workforce.
- Despite this, tradies suffer from 60% of the injury and musculoskeletal disorders in working Australians.
- Tradies account for 39% of the medical conditions suffered by Aussie workers, often due to working with hazardous materials.
- 21% of tradies say they would think a colleague is “soft” if they complained about being sore, although only 10% would say the same if a colleague needed to take time off for mental health reasons.
- 60% of tradies regularly complain of aches and pains, and 69% believe it’s normal to feel sore after work.
- The average amount of tradie downtime due to injury is 5-6 weeks.
- Tradies are 70% more likely to commit suicide than office workers.
Let’s Get Physical
The physically demanding nature of the work, early starts, long hours out in all weather or even wedged inside a wall or under a house can result in a myriad of health issues.
The most obvious is injury and musculoskeletal disorders. Back issues can often plague the tradie who has to lift and move heavy objects, operate dangerous machinery or even be on the road, driving for days or even weeks.
Back pain is one of the most common complaints that tradies have. If you haven’t had a chance to read our blog on spinal health, you can catch it here.
When it comes to lifting, you need to keep a few things in mind:
- How quickly you’re lifting. Slow and steady is best in this case.
- How often you’re lifting. Give yourself a break!
- Distance you carry heavy loads. The constant strain will eventually take a toll.
- How you lift. Ensuring you lift with your knees is crucial.
- Avoid twisting your body or bending your back while lifting. Lift in a fluid motion.
Of course, tradies are responsible for their own bodies, but employers also have to look after their staff. Keeping the stress off your employees’ backs can only be a good thing- looking after your staff is the best way to ensure a successful business.
Consider taking a leaf out of this small business’ book- the changes they made in their Sydney-based warehouse have made their staff exponentially happier and reduced the risk of injuries to their backs.
If you think your Safety policies might be outdated and need an overhaul, contact us for a chat. Investing in a health and safety overhaul could increase productivity, boost morale, and help you hang onto valuable staff.
Australia’s Dirty Secret
While we have recently focused on the mental health of tradies in this blog post, this issue isn’t going away and needs to be discussed until something changes.
The stigma of mental health issues, the pressure, and “macho” culture, and even workplace bullying can result in tradies not knowing where to turn, especially in situations of their income being reduced and threatened.
The issue was recently highlighted by the tragic suicide of Dieter Brummer, former Home and Away star, who took his life due to the recent ban on construction in Sydney. The ban was put in place as a result of the recent Covid-19 outbreak that has hit Sydney in the last couple of months. Depressed and unable to work in the construction job he’d recently started, Dieter took his life at age just 45.
Dieter was just one of many tradies with nowhere to turn- approximately 190 tradies take their lives every year.
In an industry where you’re putting your life on the line every day, it’s shocking that suicide is the single biggest killer of tradies, and the silence needs to be broken.
As an employer, you should be doing everything you can to ensure your tradies know where to turn in times of stress, anxiety, and depression. Create a culture of openness, letting your staff know that they can come to you in times of need.
It might save a life.
You should be asking #ruoktradie every day, not just in August.
For advice on creating policies and procedures to protect the health of your staff, contact us via email at [email protected]