Brian Boyd – ONSITE Editorial Board Member
With an injury rate three times higher than other occupations, risks to construction workers have been highlighted in the 2019 Safe Work Australia report.
The report bluntly stated that the hard work of being a construction worker brings with it a high risk of injury. Men and women who work in the trades in Australia make up just over 25 per cent of the workforce, yet they account for nearly 60 per cent of the nation’s serious workplace injury claims.
Traumatic joint injuries, cuts and wounds and musculoskeletal disorders are among the top causes of the nearly 180 serious WorkCover claims lodged each day. While Australia is considered a world leader in promoting safety standards, there is still much to be done regarding OHS worksite culture in the broader building industry.
The latest data shows that young workers are the most vulnerable, highlighting the need to target the promotion of the use of safety equipment and procedures.
While employers are legally required to provide safe worksites, building workers also must use their right to refuse to do unsafe work. Workers have a right to raise with their supervisor any concerns about feeling unsafe, or go to the health and safety representative. They must be able to do both without feeling pressure of any kind.
Research shows that many construction workers tend to ‘soldier on’ after suffering an injury. Health professionals now say it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible: some injuries that traditionally have a two week recovery time can turn into something that might take six weeks or more.
Suggested guide to more safety at work:
- Be conscious of doing work safely for yourself and your workmates every day.
- Start work with a warm-up. Especially in winter as low temperatures increase risks of getting straight into work.
- Take breaks where necessary. Often manual labour can have workers locked into one task and even one physical position for long periods. This can lead to overuse or repetition injuries.
- Share the load. Reduce manual handling where possible to help avoid many common complaints such as lower back pain and shoulder injuries.
- Pace yourself. The building industry is often defined by deadlines, and rushing can be the norm – this can result in a trip or a rolled ankle.
- Focus on fitness. A physical job doesn’t necessarily equal a fit body. Help ward off injury by having all-round fitness and wellbeing.