18 Dec 2021
Some important Stats which will shock you!
The physical and mental health - along with the safety and wellbeing - of tradesmen and women is a very important issue these days – not just within the building and construction industry, but within the community, as a whole.
The construction industry alone is the third largest industry in Australia in terms of people employed and also its share in the Gross Domestic Product.
Almost 1.2 million people (or over nine percent of all jobs in Australia) were employed in construction in 2019 and earlier in the year, it was estimated that a further 120,000 positions would be filled in the same industry over the next three years.
However, this projection has now hit a massive speed bump following the devastating and ongoing effects of COVID-19 throughout Australia during 2020.
The crushing impact on the economy of COVID-19 has led to countless cancellations of building projects, with an estimated 80,000 jobs being lost in construction alone between March-July, 2020.
“Manufacturers Monthly” is a periodical in Australia which for over 40 years has kept the nation’s manufacturing industry up to date with the latest industry news and developments.
The July 2020 edition of “Manufacturers Monthly” indicated that Australia’s unemployment rate is likely to reach as much as 15 percent before the COVID-19 crisis subsides completely.
Statistics show that the unemployed are at a much higher risk of mental health issues, including suicide, with men who cannot find work being particularly vulnerable.
While projections released by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) indicate that there could be a surge in the national suicide rate over the next five years of as much as 25 percent owing to the adverse effects of COVID-19 on mental health and financial hardship, caused by unemployment.
The accuracy of these alarming predictions will depend upon whether the current economic downturn lasts for more than a year and given the still dire situation in Victoria with regard to COVID-19, any great improvement in Australia's overall economic stability over the next few months appears very unlikely.
Statistics released by “Manufacturing Monthly” also reveal that tradies are 70 percent more likely to take their own lives than those spending their career working in an office or in retail, for example.
Over the past year alone, over a quarter of those employed in the construction industry have experienced mental health issues, which is 25% more than other Australian men.
Sadly, an Australian tradesman suicides every second day, while another statistic which should really have the alarm bells ringing is that six times more tradesmen take their own lives than are killed in workplace accidents!
Why do tradies suffer mental health issues?
Tradies face a lot of pressure due to the nature of their work – it is extremely demanding physically, the hours are long (not just on the job but often in terms of travelling) and the deadlines are generally tight.
Another major factor which can lead to mental health issues and even suicide among tradesmen is job insecurity: as most tradies are self-employed, rather than working for a company, work opportunities fluctuate, leading to concerns over bills, rent, mortgages and other financial commitments.
Alcohol and drug abuse is also a factor. “Manufacturing Monthly” reports that construction workers are responsible for double the rate of “life-threatening drinking” when compared to the national average, and a drug use rate which is 10 per cent higher.
Relationship problems and family breakdowns are other major causes of mental health issues for tradies. Indeed, if you work in the construction industry, you are six percent more likely to be divorced than if employed in any other line of work.
Tradies have traditionally had a stereotype of being tough, independent and in control. Seeking professional help or even discussing personal problems with a workmate during lunchbreak has always been seen as a sign of weakness….and of course, ‘bottling up’ major worries can heighten the risk of self-harm.
Physical Health Issues
Together with work boot manufacturer and supplier Steel Blue, the Australian Physiotherapy Association is one of the major driving forces behind National Tradies Health Month in Australia every August, where they look to raise awareness about the many hazards which can arise on job sites.
Four out of every five Australians injured at work are tradesmen and labourers, with most injuries being the result of trips, falls, slipping and over-exertion from heavy lifting.
WorkSafe Victoria CEO Denise Cosgrove has revealed that in the Garden State alone, over 3,500 tradies every year sustain an injury on the job which requires workers compensation – that’s almost 10 workmen a day.
A tradesman’s health is far more important than any tools he may use on the job, yet tradies have one of the highest injury and time off work rates compared to other professionals.
In Australia, a very concerning 60 percent of major workplace injuries involve a tradesman, although tradies only comprise 30 percent of our workforce.
In their official publication “inmotion”, the Australian Physiotherapy Association has provided numerous helpful hints to assist tradesmen to not only get through the day unscathed, but to be fit and well to ‘rock up’ to work the following morning. These steps include:
- Warming up every morning before commencing work with some targeted stretches;
- Pacing yourself throughout the day to avoid becoming burnt out or fatigued;
- Ensuring that you communicate with your workmates to check that you are working safely and efficiently;
- Expressing your concerns about any risks involved in the task you are performing with your supervisor or employer;
- Consulting a physiotherapist if experiencing any persistent aches or pains;
- Managing injuries immediately.
The most common injury suffered by tradesmen is back pain as it is involved in almost every task that they undertake on the job.
Shoulder issues are common due to repetitive reaching and holding; knee injuries relate to repetitive bending while working on uneven ground can cause ankle sprains.
The Australian Physiotherapy Association also points out that the quicker even the smallest injury is addressed, the faster it will heal and the less time you will have to spend off the job (if any).
Your physiotherapist will also provide the best advice to try and prevent the recurrence of a similar injury in the future.
Yes I Can Project Group is New South Wales’ most dynamic and innovate building company.
Commenting on the physical and mental health issues experienced by tradies, Yes I Can Project Group director Richard Dargham said: "It's a known fact that tradesmen can make a very comfortable living if they are good at their job and a quality tradesman is definitely worth his weight in gold.
"But I do think that the community often takes tradies for granted.
"Tradies face a lot of pressure on an almost daily basis because of issues like the physical demands of the job, the long hours, the hazards involved and the uncertainty of future employment (especially during COVID-19), to name just a handful.
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