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August is Tradies National Health Month and the focus is on you. Your back. Your shoulders. Your knees. And let’s not forget the muscles you use day in, day out. Research1 revealed 60% of tradies often have aches and pains as a result of their job.

Aussie tradies make up 35 per cent of the Australian workforce, yet they account for a staggering 59 per cent in serious claims for worker’s compensation, according to statistics from Safe Work Australia.

The responsibility for workplace health and safety sits with employers. Your workers are your most important assets, so it’s vital you ensure they have access to the best health and safety advice available.

Physiotherapists provide expert advice, specialist treatment, tailored exercises and so much more. The Australian Physiotherapy Association has put together the following tips to assist with better health outcomes for tradies.

Why is tradie health so important?

Physically demanding trade jobs can cause and exacerbate a range of injures. It’s not surprising that tradies are overrepresented in workplace statistics compared to other workers. The average time off work due to serious workplace injury is 5-6 weeks, which is time many tradies simply can’t afford.

To help reverse these statistics, we need to take a good look at the workplace culture and practices of many tradies and encourage them to focus more on their health and safety. Quite simply, tradies rely on their bodies for work—their bodies are their primary work tool. If it breaks down or becomes incapacitated through injury or chronic illness, they can’t work to their full ability.

How can I look after myself better at work?

Given the physical nature of a tradie’s work, it’s important that you go home safe, well and ready for action again the next day. To help you do this, follow a few simple steps:

  • warm up each morning before you start work with some targeted stretches, such as quadricep stretches (front of the thigh) if your work involves lots of squatting
  • pace your workload and rate throughout the day to avoid issues related to overuse and fatigue
  • communicate well with your workmates to ensure you are working in the most efficient and safe manner
  • be willing to speak up if you feel uneasy about the level of risk you are exposed to at work
  • don’t put yourself at risk of injury by rushing
  • be willing to say ‘no’ when required to ensure both your own safety and that of others, even if it might make you unpopular at that moment. Worksite supervisors and employers are legally responsible for safe worksites and conditions and will be held accountable if there are breaches of work site regulations
  • seek advice from your physiotherapist if you experience any aches or pains that are persistent, rather than waiting till it’s bad enough to stop you from continuing work
  • manage injuries immediately with the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation).

 

What is the most common injury?

Back pain is the most common injury experienced by tradies, as it is the part of the body involved in almost all the tasks that tradies undertake at work. Other common injuries for tradies include:

  • shoulder issues related to repetitive reaching and holding actions with the arms
  • knee injuries related to repetitive bending to the ground
  • ankle sprains related to working on uneven ground

 

How do I reduce the risk of getting injured at work?

Most injuries to tradies occur as a result of ignoring pain and niggles, rushing at work, improvising with tools or equipment or being distracted by everyday tasks. Tradies can follow a few simple steps to help reduce the chance of injury:

  • take a few minutes when you are about to start a job to think it through. Ask yourself: Is this the best way? Am I using the correct tools for the job? Do I need any help? Is it safe to proceed? If you answer yes to all these questions, get to it. If not, then change something until it is safe to finish the job
  • be mindful of what else is going on in your life and how it can influence your work. Many tradies get hand injuries when their mind is not completely on the job. We all know the dangers of not paying attention while driving—the same goes when swinging a hammer or using a rattle gun.
  • seek advice from your physiotherapist as soon as you feel a niggle. The earlier you see a physiotherapist for even the smallest injury, the quicker it will get better and the less chance your work will be impacted. Your physiotherapist can also give advice on how to prevent it happening in the future

Many tradies have to complete jobs that require either repetitive bending or awkward positions, so flexibility is really important to trades people. Improving flexibility requires regular stretching. Here are some great ones to try:

  • standing hamstring stretch
  • piriformis stretch
  • pec stretch – to reduce the tightness when working on items in front of you all day
  • forearm stretch or massage – to reduce the risk of injury from gripping tools all day.

 

Click here to find your nearest physio. You can find out more about Tradies Health Month here.

^Tradies Health Survey 2019 – prepared by Empirica Research for the Australian Physiotherapy Association

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