A whopping one third of all Australia’s workforce are tradies. Sadly, they represent 58% of workplace injuries and 190 serious claims each day, a figure much higher than it should be. Worksites are no doubt a dangerous place to be employed.
Trade occupations are also sadly over-represented in the fatality statistics, with industries like construction, agriculture, manufacturing and mining losing 50 lives in 2017 alone. That figure represents a huge number of families and friends without their loved ones coming home at the end of the day, something most of us take for granted.
In addition to the tragic deaths that occur, there are many more serious and permanent injuries that occur each and every day in the course of trade work. You may not find yourself needing to perform CPR on a worksite, but you can be pretty sure of seeing everything from cuts, fractures, sprains and strains on the job. Which is why we’ve developed these First Aid tips specifically for tradies.
As August is Tradies Health Month it is a great time to consider how to improve every aspect of health for tradies, which should also include First Aid treatment. Not to mention the fact that an injured tradie is an out of work tradie. Follow our tips tailored for tradies.
Being aware of the most common injuries experienced by tradies can help prevent them happening in the first place. This is particularly important for younger workers, who are at higher risk of injury on the job.
Uneven ground/flooring surfaces to slip on, lifting heavy loads up above head height, using power tools, being hit by moving or falling objects and falls from heights are just some of the ways tradies are at higher risk of accident and injury. Work sites are littered with these and many more risks, and these are the top injuries resulting for tradies:
Note: ‘Tradies’ are comprised of technicians and trades workers, labourers, and machinery operators and drivers.
Where possible, reducing the risk of injury is the best step to take. Where this is not possible, knowing what to do to quickly and simply will ease the pressure on the patient and everyone around them. Use this list as a form of checklist to know you’re on the right track.
Reducing risk as much as possible through the use of protective personal equipment, although it may seem uncool, should be standard across worksites today. A few essentials for tradies to keep on hand:
Some of these only take a few seconds to use; doing so save you from years of pain and illness from damage to eyes, lungs, ears, fingers or toes.
Manual handling techniques for the worksite are similar to any other industry – use knees, don’t lift more than you’re capable of (or even close to), and use equipment such as lifts and trolleys to help you.
Having an in-date First Aid kit or two on the worksite is essential. All workers should know where these are and they must be easily accessed (i.e. not in a locked ute) to make treatment speedy and less stressful. Not to mention reduce the rate of infection if items like bandages are handy and used instead of makeshift dirty rags, which can often happen in the panic that comes with a severe laceration.
Having a First Aid kit on hand is one thing, but knowing and being confident to use it is another. The last thing you want is for the one designated First Aider on site to be injured, with everyone else standing around wondering what to do. Many worksites implementing the practice of now requiring all staff on site to be First Aid trained in case this exact situation happens. It can even reduce the number of injuries if more staff than the minimum are trained, as it has been proven to make them more aware of the risks.
Falls from heights are usually severe in their impact to the body. Multiple fractures, internal injuries and weeks or months off work are often the best case scenario.
Having secure scaffolding and appropriate harnessing can be tricky, but the risks of not using this safety equipment are unimaginable.
Ladders are a particular hazard, as they can easily slip from their position if not well secured.
Follow these ladder safety tips for better peace of mind:
Tradies are also at higher risk of mental health issues, particularly those in mining. Unfortunately suicide rates are double the average for trade-related industry workers.
This is when looking out for a mate is particularly important, because those in distress may not see it for themselves. Being prepared on what to say and do for someone who you think is having a difficult time is invaluable.
But we don’t always know what to say or do, or if what we’ve said or done is the right thing. In the same way that doing a First Aid course helps you prepare for a physical emergency, you can also do a course that prepares you for a Mental Health emergency. One such course is Recognise and Respond to a Crisis Situation, a one day course which covers an overview of mental health, when and how to intervene and provide support in a mental health crisis. Being trained and prepared gives you a level of comfort in knowing that if a colleague, friend or family member is struggling, then you have the awareness and knowledge to step in and ask the right questions in a caring and supportive way.
Our tradies make up a large percentage of our workforce and often do the thankless and hard tasks, which can be the most risky to their own health and wellbeing. If you’re a tradie, looking out for your own health and that of your workmates is the smart thing to do. With the number of tradies in our workforce set to increase by the tens of thousands in the next 5 years, the issues will only grow in number if we don’t improve our approach.
By looking out for your own health and the heath of others, we can all work towards reducing the high level of injury, accident and fatality that tradies are disproportionally subjected to. If lives can be saved by improved safety and techniques, or even if a wound can be bandaged appropriately to reduce infection and pain, then our entire community wellbeing can only improve.