Aussie tradies are almost twice as likely to take good care of their tools as their bodies despite having one of the highest injury rates of any occupation according to research by the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) released today to mark the launch of Tradies National Health Month.
The Empirica Research survey commissioned by the APA1 revealed that 79 per cent of tradies report taking good care of their tools compared to just 47 per cent who took good care of their bodies.
Nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of tradies said they had been injured in their current job and half of these said they expected to be injured again.
The survey findings come as no surprise to APA National President Phil Calvert who says tradies are prone to a range of injuries as a result of the intensity and repetitive nature of their work, yet many don’t seek help early enough, or at all.
“Many tradies are not seeking treatment or are delaying treatment until their injury becomes a much bigger and more complex issue. We know that lower back pain, knee and shoulder issues are common, yet almost a quarter (22 per cent) of tradies in our survey said they didn’t seek assistance from a health professional for their injury, which led to a longer recovery time or chronic injury,” he said.
Mr Calvert said a proper warm up before work including appropriate stretching and using correct lifting techniques could help prevent injuries. “While health and safety messages are getting through - with 68 per cent saying they follow safe lifting guidelines - only 23 per cent of tradies said they warm up before they start work.”
Mr Calvert said attitudes were changing slowly, given that 55 per cent of tradies still thought aches and pains were just normal for the work they do and nearly a quarter (24 per cent) said they would think a work mate was ‘a wuss’ if they complained about an injury.
“Too many tradies are living with the attitude that injuries come part and parcel with the job, but that just doesn’t have to be the case,” he said.
“Early treatment from a physio is effective in reducing, relieving and eliminating a range of musculoskeletal conditions, including back pain and soft tissue injuries, as well as help with more complex health problems in consultation with a tradie’s own GP.”
The research found work injuries did not only take a toll physically but were affecting tradies’ mental health with 20 per cent of tradies surveyed reporting a mental health issue as a result of a work injury.
Workplace injuries are also hitting tradies in the hip pocket with 65 per cent stating they had lost income due to time off work because of an injury and 16 per cent saying they had lost $5,000 or more. That’s estimated to be a staggering $1.37 billion in lost income nationally.
The APA survey findings are supplemented by the latest data from Safe Work Australia2 which indicates that almost three in five (58 per cent) serious workplace injuries involve a tradie, despite tradies making up only 30 per cent of the workforce.
Physiotherapy can help tradies achieve better health beyond muscle and joint pain relief. It encompasses treatment and specific exercise programs for chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes, as well as the less talked about pelvic floor issues that many men face.
Physically demanding trade jobs can exacerbate these conditions, but with the proven evidence-based treatments that physiotherapists employ, tradies can maintain their health and continue doing what they do best, ensuring that their health is in as good condition as their work tools.
“It’s definitely worth seeking out a physio to have a comprehensive assessment and get treatment. In most cases, the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome,” Mr Calvert said.
Tradies National Health Month is an annual national awareness campaign that encourages tradies to look after their most valuable asset – their health.
1 Australian Tradies – Health Research report June 2018 – a national survey of tradies by Empirica Research for the Australian Physiotherapy Association.
2 Safe Work Australia 2015-16 National Data Set for Compensation-based Statistics
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