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  • Writer's pictureDr Claire Chittleborough

Tools down for Tradie's National Health Month

Calling all tradies! It’s important as a tradesman or tradeswoman to look after your tools and equipment. Afterall, they can be expensive to replace! But perhaps the most important tools to a tradie are your health and body! They are tools that allow you to continue your job safely and ones that aren’t easily replaceable.

Welcome to our August blog. This month is ‘Tradies National Health Month’. It’s a month-long campaign focusing on a tradie’s most important asset: their body!

Tradies make up 30% of the Australian workforce, so it’s important to show a bit of love to our tradie friends who help keep Australia growing! Unfortunately, statistics show that around 60% of serious workplace injuries involve a tradie. It’s no secret that trade jobs are usually physically demanding; meaning that injuries are more common. When injuries occur, the average time off work is 5-6 weeks! 190 serious workers’ compensation claims are made each day by Australian tradies.

These staggering statistics are the reason ‘Tradies National Health Month’ was created. Prevention is key, but there are only so many risk assessments one team can complete in a day. So, here’s some handy tips to help care for your body in a physically demanding job.

Back pain

Everyone has it from time to time, but back pain can be far more sinister if left untreated. Couple that with constant manual handling, lifting and general overuse and you could cause your back serious damage. Back pain can be reduced by using heat or ice packs correctly and by having regular checkups with your Chiropractor. However, as they say, prevention is better than cure, so here are some preventative measures to avoid back pain.

Preventative measures

· Stretch before work. Stretching allows your body to ease into tasks that may cause strain on the back. Stretching for at least 5 minutes can also help with mental clarity which can be just as important in preventing injury.

· Keep fit and active. Keeping active is important for the body to become used to moving and for the muscles to absorb pressure effectively when lifting heavy objects. It's also important to strengthen your core (the inner abdominal muscles). By building muscle strength, physically demanding tasks will become easier and safer!

· Use correct form when lifting heavy objects. Incorrect lifting of heavy objects is a major contributing factor in workplace injuries. Make sure to lift with the legs (not the back), and don’t lift too fast. Carry the object close to your body and attempt to minimise the distance at which you must travel with the object. Use fluid motions when twisting or turning and ask a colleague for a hand!

Shoulder injury

Shoulder injuries are common, especially in jobs that require manual handling of heavy objects. Shoulder injuries are usually linked to repeated reaching and/or holding of objects (e.g. Painting ceilings). When moving an object is unavoidable; check out these preventative measures to reduce the impact on your shoulder joint.

Preventative measures

· Source help to move the object. Whether it be asking another team member for assistance or utilising machinery to help lift the load, asking for help is a great starting point when faced with a potentially harmful load. Ego’s aside, working as a team could save yourself weeks or months off work!

· Pace yourself. Although you may want to smash out your jobs as soon as possible, pacing yourself is important for mental and physical wellbeing. Workplace injuries are more common when fatigue is a factor. You can also cause pain with overuse of a single muscle group; which can impair your performance for the rest of the week. Trying taking breaks, or swapping tasks regularly if your job allows it.

· Hold objects close to your body. As previously mentioned, holding heavy objects close to your body is incredibly important in minimising injury. Holding objects away from your body puts excess strain on your arms, shoulders and back - and can lead to other injuries.

Knee injury

Knee injuries commonly happen due to repetitive bending to the ground. If your job requires you to repeatedly bend to the ground, your knees are your best asset. So, let’s try to protect them.

Preventative measures

· Avoid picking up heavy objects that are below knee height. As well as being tricky to pick up, a weight below knee height can cause strain on the knees as correct lifting form cannot be implemented in such a position. If you need to, bend at the knees and use your legs to absorb the weight, and/or grab a fellow tradie to help.

· Stretch after work. Stretching after work can help release tension around the knees and reduce muscle inflammation. Moreover, stretching will improve flexibility, which is important for injury prevention. Try stretching your calves, quadriceps (thighs) and hamstrings (back of thighs) – hold each for two breaths and repeat.

· Act on pain. If you are experiencing knee pain (or any pain), it is important to consult your Chiropractor as soon as possible to work towards creating a proactive solution. Often, pain will get worse when you ignore it so it’s crucial that you act on pain early.

Tradies are incredibly important to our growing country. So, it only makes sense to give them the spotlight once in a while! Tradies National Health Month is an important time to refresh on the good ol’ OH&S procedures and reflect on your own treatment of your body. Remember: treat your body as you would treat your expensive tools; because YOU are your biggest workplace asset.

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