Well-being woes: National survey reveals Tradies take greater care of their tools than personal health concerns
A national survey conducted by The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) queried over 800 tradespeople directly involved within the Australian construction industry. The study is part of the association’s ‘Tradies National Health Month’ campaign designed to aim a spotlight on the health of Australia’s tradies, raising awareness on a wide range of health concerns that impact tradies and raising physiotherapy as a potential treatment option.
2019 marks the second consecutive year to reveal that tradies ascribe a higher value on the wellbeing of their tools over their own health. The survey demographic was 87% male and 13% female. Their professions ranged from that of technicians, trade workers, labourers, machine drivers and operators. Despite the concerning perspectives that the APA’s national president Phil Calvert attributes to the industry’s masculine culture, the study did indicate that overall attitudes towards worker health and safety were on the verge of improvement.
Although Tradies showed a heavy reluctance to discuss mental health woes in particular, 73% of those surveyed stated that they wouldn’t think any less of their fellow work colleagues for taking time off work due to deal with mental health concerns. Mr Calvert attributed the disproportionate view on mental health held by tradies as an imbalance between personal and co-worker expectations. Moreover, poor attitudes towards worker wellbeing are hugely dependant on how supportive an individual's employer is.
"So it seems they have tougher expectations of themselves than their co-workers… Tradies should look at all options to make sure they are in the best physical and mental shape to get through the day. That might include warmup stretches at the start of the day and open dialogue with bosses and co-workers about personal injuries or issues affecting their work.” - APA National President Phil Calvert
Key Findings from the Tradie survey:
88% take care of the tools but only 60% look after their body and mental health
70% consider themselves fit and try to eat healthily
69% believe it's normal to be sore as a result of their work
25% are comfortable to talk to a co-worker about a mental health issue affecting their work
32% don't follow safe lifting guidelines
42% push their body past healthy limits
48% haven't taken a sick day in the past six months
Speaking in response to the survey’s findings, Rockhampton physiotherapist Lesley Smith strongly advocated in favour of injury prevention over pain relief solutions. Moreover, the survey highlighted the greater need for tradies to be vigilant with self-care in order to avoid inflicting permanent damage to their bodies so that they may continue to work later in life. Amongst the most common occupational hazards experienced by those taking part in the survey was lower back pain, followed by shoulder, knee and neck-related complications.
"A lot of injuries come through repetitive strain and that's why regular breaks and regular stretching is also important especially with tasks like hammering, or drill work where we've got that constant gripping," - Physiotherapist Lesley Smith
The APA’s national chair of occupational health physiotherapy David Hall spoke in great length about the physical challenges that go onto cause tradies continued discomfort for the rest of their lives. Often, younger tradies will neglect their own physical wellbeing to complete tasks at a faster pace; thus, attention and focus on safe work practices become negligible in the face of looming construction deadlines. As such, Mr Hall believes striking a balance between engaging a type of work that will keep you fit and well whilst also paying due respect to complete the job in a conscious and mindful way is the key to pacing yourself.
Opinion from the field:
Queensland Tradie Veteran Trevor Boswood has 40 years of experience under his belt believes that safety rules and regulations have changed the industry for the better. Mr Boswood attributed industry improvements to the better tools, better designs and stricter safety rules. Despite being in his 60s, Mr Boswood has stated that despite years of wear and tear on his body, he has no intention of hangings his tools up anytime soon.
"Back in my day, you never got a lot of advice about anything you just got told to 'Rip in and do it' and that could lead to overdoing it, so you feel it later in life… With today's rules and regulations, you are working safer than what you ever were before, now lifting less and less. [I'll] always keep doing small jobs because if you don't use it, you lose it.” - Veteran Tradie Trevor Boswood