Tradies National Health Month - how to help our tradies

Do you know a tradie?


If you do, you will know their job is often physical, at times repetitive and very demanding.

tradie-on-equipment
Tradies are often our unsung heroes

Every August, the health, safety, and wellbeing of our Aussie tradies is highlighted during Tradies National Health Month. It is a time for tradies themselves, loved ones, families, and the wider community to reflect and take a deeper dive into understanding both the health and injury risks that affect those who work in trade occupations.


Whilst Australians are improving in terms of Safety Culture and there is lowered fatality rates across all industries, there are still far too many workplace deaths for our tradies!


16 out of 34 fatalities during 2020 (Qld) were related to trade/technician/labourer occupations*

How shocking. That’s an alarming 47%!


5214 serious claims were submitted to Work Cover Qld in 2019 – 2020*

These are potentially life changing injuries, not only for our tradie, but for family members too. This number remains too high!


stats-for-serious-injuries-of-tradies
We can clearly see who experiences the majority of injuries - it's time to change that

Our tradespeople are often faced with a range of hazards as part of their everyday and this can present an array of quite complex risks.

When I am attending training involving tradies, I hear of lot response with ‘I just walk it off’ when discussing first aid issues and injuries during class. It might be considered ‘tough’ to keep working through, however doing so can potentially cause delays to recovery or possibly even cause long term damage.

man-holding-heavy-equipment
I often hear 'I just walk it off' when I am training our tradies

We need to encourage our tradies to get checked out, injuries happen, accidents happen and ‘walking it off’ simply won’t cut it.


Michael Burke, Director and Physiotherapist at Allsports Physio Toowong, says


For tradies, work is often heavy and physical, repetitive, and involves putting themselves into awkward positions and postures for prolonged periods. These factors put them at heightened risk of acute injuries, or chronic soreness. Appropriate stretching, easing into activity gradually, and attention to detail with lifting techniques and postures can go a long way to reducing this risk in the same way it does in sporting pursuits.
There is no shortage of workers in trades who suffer from chronic issues, which could have been prevented with the right self-management’

The key word here is PREVENTION – taking all steps possible to prevent an injury or illness/disease.


Let's take a closer look.

There are many risks to the health, safety, and wellbeing of our Aussie Tradies. We have tradespeople working in a range of industries, so it is important to understand what kind of hazards they face.

The following is a list of common hazards experienced by tradespeople in their roles: (it is not an exhaustive list)


Excessive Noise

Exposure to loud noise from equipment and/or machinery shouldn’t be ignored. It is extremely important to put in preventative measures as once hearing is lost or you feel any pain, the damage is already done.

man-with-earmuffs
Get the right hearing protection for the job - match to the decibel exposure

Ensure that you are wearing appropriately rated earmuffs or ear plugs for the decibel exposure. Talk to your Safety Advisor, Safety Manager or Health and Safety Rep to report any noise hazards. If you are consistently working in a noisy environment, hearing screening should be conducted regularly to measure any potential hearing loss.


Working at Heights

Being a tradie means at times you will need to access areas such as roofs, ceiling spaces/cavities or work structures at height. This will require use of ladders, scaffolding or equipment such as elevated working platforms or cherry pickers to access heights safely.


Working in, on or around these areas present fall risks, so is extremely important that all safety measures are put in place, such as fall-arrest systems, guarding, rail systems, barriers/isolation and relative training, such as working at heights training. Falls from height presents serious risk for injury and as we have seen historically - death, so the hazards faced shouldn’t be taken lightly.

men-working-on-scaffolding
Working at Heights presents complex risks - every precaution should be taken to prevent accidental falls

Hazardous Manual Tasks

MSD’s or Musculo Skeletal Disorders are one of the most common injuries reported amongst tradies. Long gone are the days where it was defined to heavy lifting alone.


A hazardous manual task, as defined in the WHS Regulations, means a task that requires a person to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain any person, animal or thing involving one or more of the following**:


  • repetitive or sustained force (e.g., pushing a heavy wheelbarrow)

  • high or sudden force (e.g., lifting materials/goods that are heavy)

  • repetitive movement

  • sustained or awkward posture (e.g., working in a small space or confined area)

  • exposure to vibration. (e.g., using a jackhammer/grinder/driving plant)

grinder-in-use
Over exposure to tools such as a grinder can cause manual handling injuries to the hands/wrists - warm ups, stretching and time limits need to be embraced.

A hazardous Manual task can put stress on the body and lead to an injury. It is important for our tradies to assess what is considered a hazardous manual task to understand the risk of injury and the ways in which they can avoid an injury.


Work Cover Qld sees many serious injury claims submitted that are resultant from poor manual handling techniques or poor manual handling application. Injuries to back, lower trunk and shoulders are the most common injury and may cause life changing results to the person and their families, as no longer able to perform the tasks they were trained for.


graph-of-injuries
A snapshot of injuries across all occupations from 2019 - 2020

Wherever possible, use of equipment or engineering controls should be sought to assist with manual handling tasks. Other factors such as physical fitness, pre-existing injuries, fatigue and dehydration plays a contributory part in sustaining manual handling injuries.


Always look at the bigger picture.


Asbestos Exposure

For buildings built before 1990, a tradie needs to be made aware if they are working on a building or structure containing asbestos fibres. If undertaking renovations whereby fibres can be disturbed, this can result in dangerous asbestos dust, which if inhaled, places a tradie at risk of developing an asbestos-related lung condition.

caution-asbestos-sign
Exposure to Asbestos fibres has shown to have dire health effects

Any building or workplace that contains asbestos should have an on-site register that indicates the locations of asbestos on their site. This should be made aware to tradies as they enter the site to prevent accidental exposure.


Exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS)

Dust containing respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is created by certain processes when working with materials that contain silica. When breathed in, RCS exposure over time can cause fatal lung disease.


fine-dust-particles-lungs
Those fine dust particles may just have fatal consequences - protect yourself

It is commonly found in many construction materials and is a risk in the manufacturing and installing of the now very popular modern stone bench top. It is very important for tradies to be monitored for health screening when working with these materials and to be set up with the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and receive appropriate training/fit checking and testing of respirator masks.

man-in-ppe
Find out what the right Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is that you need for the job

Electricity

Electricity poses a significant risk as it may mean tradies are working directly or indirectly with wires and other electrical equipment. It is important that Electrical Lock Out/Tag out training is well understood particularly when multiple tradies working on the one site, such as a construction site.


Low Voltage Rescue/CPR training is essential annual training for every electrician (aside from being lifesaving training, it is also a compliance requirement). If you know a young tradie, encourage them to speak up, seek advice from their safety rep or advisor to ensure they have the right gloves, the right kind of boots and appropriate workwear for electrical work. These are essential items for their safety and protection.

Confined Spaces

A tradie may be called upon to undertake a job that involves accessing confined spaces. These includes spaces such as vats, silos, tanks, pipes, pressure vessels, underground sewers etc. A confined space presents numerous health and safety risks, such as contaminates in the air, suffocation from oxygen deficiency, being crushed or suffocated by the contents (e.g. sugar or grains in a silo), fire or explosion.

silos-at-a-brewery
There are many hidden dangers to enter a Confined Space

So, you can see how important it is to have the right training, the right equipment and incredibly important to have the right emergency plan if things do go wrong, so that more people aren’t placed in danger. A Job Safety Analysis should be completed prior to any entry to a Confined Space (and generally a permit) and made available to workers entering a confined space.


Young workers

You might think that is a strange one to put on this list, but we need to mention this. Our young people often start their trade career early in life. What we have learned and know, is that risk management is not always well understood for young workers between the ages of 15 – 24 years old.

Qualified tradespeople act as role models to coach and mentor our young people to learn the ropes and to also learn the safety aspects of the trade. Our young workers also have a tendency to not speak up, for fear of rocking the boat and this puts them in a unique risk profile.


For all the mums and dads out there, if you see your tradie doesn’t have the right equipment or access to the right equipment to do their job, encourage them to speak up! Ask them about their day, talk to them about what happens at work, get a feel for the safety culture. Some businesses have an exemplary safety culture and sadly, others do not, only placing safety in focus after a fatality or serious injury has occurred. All too late.


We need to do our best to support all our tradies, especially our young ones. Think back to your youth, often we thought we were invincible! As we age, we know that is not quite the case. Guidance and advice will help support them to speak up at work and start good habits early on.

Zero harm is the goal!

This month (and all months of the year!) let’s focus on supporting our tradies:

healthy-eating
Encourage a healthier diet and lifestyle to support

All workplaces require access to First Aid. Ensure your workplace has the right First Aid Officer and supplies ratio on site to deal with any workplace emergency.


Reach out today if you would like us to conduct a free assessment of your First Aid requirements. We are here to help.


Let’s work together to keep our tradies healthy and safe.



Sourced from:

* WHSQ – Key WHS Statistics Queensland – 2021

** WHS Regulations 2011





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