Australian 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 from the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA).
The Empirica Research survey, commissioned by the APA, reveals 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.
APA National President Phil Calvert 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,” Mr. Calvert said.
“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.”
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.
The research said workplace injuries are also having a financial impact on tradies, 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. The research estimates this to be $1.37 billion in lost income nationally.
The APA survey findings are supplemented by the latest data from Safe Work Australia, 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.
“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
The research was released to mark the launch of Tradies National Health Month this August – an annual national awareness campaign that encourages tradies to look after their health.