SEVEN out of 10 tradies consider themselves fit and try to eat healthily but a persistent “blokey” culture is leading to serious injury, according to the Australian Physiotherapy Association’s annual survey, released to mark the beginning of Tradies National Health Month.
The association says the survey highlights some concerning attitudes among tradies including a disconnect between their attitudes to work and sport.
Australian Physiotherapy Association president Phil Calvert says: “Our research shows that of those tradies who exercise or play sport regularly – more than half will spend a few minutes stretching and warming up because they know this helps reduce injuries.”
“Yet when it comes to starting work for the day, in many respects another type of sport, less than a quarter will warm up, even though they know it could prevent stiffness and soreness at the end of the day.
“When we dug deeper we found the majority of tradies were open to the idea of warming up if they felt their boss would be supportive of it.
“So there’s a real opportunity for trade employers to take a proactive position and encourage their employees to spend a few minutes each day getting their bodies warmed up for the physical work ahead.”
Phil says tradies are at risk of a range of injuries as a result of the intensity and repetitive nature of their work, yet statistics show 88 per cent of tradies take good care of their tools, while more than 60 per cent said they take good care of their bodies.
When it came to mental health, only one quarter of tradies felt comfortable talking to co-workers about a mental health issue affecting their work, while just over half (53 per cent) were open to discussing physical health concerns.
Sixty-nine per cent of tradies believe it is OK to be sore as a result of the work they do and 42 per cent of tradies push past their healthy limits.
As part of the survey, 32 per cent admitted to not following safe lifting guidelines and almost half (48 per cent) hadn’t taken a sick day in the past six months.
At the end of the day, Phil says the association wants everyone to go home safely to their families, so tradies should look at all options to ensure they are in the best physical and mental shape to get through the day.
“That might include warm-up stretches at the start of the day and open dialogue with bosses and co-workers about personal injuries or issues affecting their work,” he says.
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Constant advice to keep tradies safe
DURING Tradies National Health Month, and any other month of the year, Access Canberra, WorkSafe ACT, is always providing advice and information to keep Canberra’s tradies safe, says work safety commissioner Greg Jones.
“WorkSafe hosts a number of seminars and construction breakfasts throughout the year to raise work health-and-safety awareness and compliance issues,” Greg says.
“WorkSafe has a number of safety videos and extensive guidance material available on its website [too].”
And, Greg says, they have inspectors who can provide advice over the phone or face-to-face regarding queries from both workers and employers.
This Tradies National Health Month, Greg says it’s a timely reminder to ensure safety management systems are in place and are followed by workers.
“Educate workers and management on the importance of safety in the workplace,” he says.
“The most common causes of [musculoskeletal injuries] are lifting, carrying, putting down objects, falls and repetitive movement or strain.”
To help avoid injuries, Greg suggests tradies should watch how they lift objects, avoid awkward/twisted postures, use equipment when possible, perform preventative stretches and exercises, take breaks and, of course, stay hydrated.
Greg says employers can also provide workers with appropriate protection equipment, ensure adequate staffing levels and regularly inspect and maintain workplace equipment.
Act early to save yourself
IT’S important to nip pain in the bud early, says Canberra Chiropractic’s director Dr Ben Schutte, who sees a lot of hard-working tradies who “soldier on” until they can’t anymore.
“If you notice anything above the usual soreness you feel at the end of the day, get it seen to and diagnosed by a professional,” Ben says.
“Sometimes the past can point to the reason why you are now in pain, as old sports injuries or accidents can be an underlying cause.”
To prevent future injuries, Ben also suggests tradies keep fit and active outside of their day job.
“Tradies are naturally fit and strong when they are young and starting out and they may feel invincible,” he says.
“But as they get older and hit their 30s and 40s that’s when problems can start.
“They also tend to stop exercising and aren’t as fit and active as they used to be.”
Experts in managing conditions such as lower back pain, disk injuries, sciatica, neck and arm pain, Ben says Canberra Chiropractic is open for extended hours to help fit into a busy tradie’s schedule.
Canberra Chiropractic, Unit 5, 9 McKay Street, Turner. Call 6247 3388, email email@example.com or visit canberrachiropractic.com.au
Gosia helps tradies prevent injuries
WITH a focus on prevention, Campbell Physiotherapy takes the time to check the individual’s habits and history to better understand how to help, says director and physiotherapist Gosia Ible.
“Tradies are taking a more proactive role in their health,” she says.
“If they come in with smaller pains, they can potentially avoid more severe injuries and potentially avoid surgery in the future.”
Gosia says she can help tradies prevent injuries through education and manage current injuries using a combination of strengthening exercises, stretches and massage.
“[Clients might] say their shoulders are not quite right, their knees are weak or their backs are tight,” she says.
“And it’s good to check early before they get worse.”
Gosia says she checks for past injuries that could leave tradies with tighter or weaker muscles and creates plans to strengthen these areas.
And, Gosia says, correct education, including how to squat, how to lift properly, and what footwear is appropriate, can help prevent workplace injuries.
“Prevention is less painful than the cure,” she says.
“We all need to look after our bodies, but because tradies use their bodies a lot more, they need to prevent problems more than the rest of us.”
Campbell Physiotherapy, Unit 4/24 Blamey Place, Medical Centre Building, Campbell Shops. Call 6156 0468, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit campbellphysio.com.au