Tradies can prevent common work-related stiffness, soreness and injury by thinking more like an athlete, according to the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA).
In its latest survey, the APA found 60 per cent of tradies often have aches and pains as a result of their job, and that 36 per cent typically finish their workday stiff and sore.
Alarmingly, 69 per cent believe it is normal to be sore as a result of the work they do, and 42 per cent often push their bodies past their healthy limits.
However, the APA says work is merely ‘another type of sport’, and that a lot of issues can be avoided if tradies prioritise the need to stretch and warm-up before they pick up the tools.
APA National President Phil Calvert said over half of the tradies who exercise or play sport regularly stretch and warm-up because they know it helps to reduce injuries.
Yet when it comes to starting work for the day less than a quarter will warm up, even though they know it could prevent stiffness and soreness at the end of the day.
“When we dug deeper we found the majority of tradies were open to the idea of warming up if they felt their boss would be supportive of it. So there’s a real opportunity for trade employers to take a proactive position and encourage their employees to spend a few minutes each day getting their bodies warmed up for the physical work ahead.”
“It’s a bit like wearing hi-vis clothing on worksites – it’s become very much the norm over the past 10 years because we know that it makes workers safer; it should be the same for stretching before the workday starts.”
And while respondents were split as to whether their employer would approve of taking the time to stretch before work, 66 per cent agreed that they would be more inclined to stretch or warm-up if their employer prioritised it.
Tradies are at particular risk of a range of injuries as a result of the intensity and repetitive nature of their work. In fact, tradies are typically overrepresented in workplace injury statistics. The APA says back pain is the most common injury experienced by tradies, although shoulder, knee and ankle injuries are also commonplace.
“Tradies rely on their bodies for work—their bodies are their primary work tool. If it breaks down or becomes incapacitated through injury or chronic illness, they can’t work to their full ability,” the APA says.
The study also found that only one quarter of tradies felt comfortable talking to co-workers about a mental health issue affecting their work, while just over half (53 per cent) were open to discussing physical health concerns.
“While tradies appear reluctant to open up to their workmates and bosses about mental health issues in particular, the majority (73 per cent) said they wouldn’t think any less of their workmates for taking time off for mental health concerns. So it seems they have tougher expectations of themselves than their co-workers,” Calvert said.
As a whole, it seems tradies are inclined to take better care of their tools and their work vehicle than they are of their own body and mind – 88 per cent reported taking good care of their tools while just over 60 per cent said they take good care of their bodies and mental health.
August is ‘Tradies National Health Month’ – an annual awareness campaign that focuses on the health of Australian tradies and the benefits of physiotherapy to support better health outcomes. Learn more here.