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By Louise Morrisey
December 10, 2017
The number of construction workers in Australia grew a massive 11% between 1994 and 2015, largely due to a burgeoning population and spike in construction activity, particularly on Australia’s east coast.
With this increase in the number of construction workers came a welcome reduction in the number of injuries and fatalities in the industry in the same timeframe. However, there are still about 35 serious claims for worker’s compensation made every day in Australia. And that is just in the construction industry alone.
As an occupation prone to long hours, risk of falling, back injury, and high levels of sun exposure, tradespeople and construction workers must embrace a culture of self-care on the jobsite. The need to work as teams to keep themselves healthy and protected in an often taxing environment.
Jobsite spoke to Dr. Simon Blackwood, Head of Workplace Health and Safety, Queensland, to hear his thoughts on how construction workers can keep healthy on the jobsite.
Taking Risks with Health Commonplace on Jobsites
According to Dr. Blackwood, research shows construction workers are more likely to smoke, consume too much alcohol, have low levels of physical activity, poor nutrition, and are at a higher risk of suffering a mental health condition.
“Stress, anxiety, and sprain and strain injuries amongst construction workers are usually higher than in other areas of the population,” Dr. Blackwood says.
He emphasises that enhancing the health, safety, and wellbeing of workers helps reduce illness and injury rates, and often leads to improved productivity and business performance.
Being Healthier on the Jobsite is a Two-Way Street
In addition to taking care of oneself, it is also the legal responsibility and obligation of an employer to provide a safe workplace to employees. This includes assessing risks and implementing appropriate measures for controlling them, as well as providing and maintaining safe machinery and materials.
“Providing a safe workplace will eliminate or reduce risk to workers and others,” says Dr. Blackwood. “Employers do this by carefully considering the work, work environment, and the worker. This approach manages all ‘on the job’ hazards together.”
With employers obligated to provide workplace safety under the law, the responsibility to stay healthy and safe then turns to the employee.
“On the jobsite, construction workers must take reasonable care of their own health and safety. They can also make healthy lifestyle choices to help prevent illness and injury. These include good nutrition, quality sleep, and keeping hydrated. Limiting alcohol and other substances, and seeking professional support to maintain good mental and physical health is also important,” Dr. Blackwood says.
Seasonal Considerations are Paramount
Dr. Blackwood notes that in the lead up to the Christmas period in particular, it is common for construction workers to work long hours, often under pressure to finish jobs before the traditional shut down period over the New Year.
“Such demands are linked to both physical and psychological injury at work,” Dr. Blackwood says.
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