Workplace Injuries

The importance of keeping tradies safe on the job

Greg Smith
Aug 16, 2021
min read
Lady with a hard hat wiping oil off hands

The world depends on tradespeople. They’re skilled professionals that know how to put roofs over our heads, fix our leaking toilets, provide us with electricity, and build state-of-the-art infrastructure like hospitals and roads.

While it may not seem like it when you drive past a construction site and see an abundance of high-vis vests lurking around, there is a shortage of skilled trades workers compared to the demand for their services.

In fact, there are an estimated 29,000 job openings in the next five years. The construction industry in particular is one of four that are forecast to provide more than 62 per cent of employment growth in those five years.

So, how do you prepare for life as a tradie? What are the risks of working in the trades industry? How do you protect yourself?

For National Tradies Health Month*, we talk about safety in the workplace including who is responsible for workplace health and safety, what to do if you’re injured on the job, and some tips to staying healthy.

What risks do tradies face when working?

Trades represent more than half of serious workers’ compensation claims each year despite only filling up 30 per cent of Australia’s total workforce.

It’s no surprise given that industries like construction, transport and agriculture are involved in tasks that often pose a serious threat to their physical health. Whether it be torn ligaments, dislocated joints or respiratory diseases, the risks are clear in their work with heavy machinery, power tools, working outdoors in the heat, and exposure to chemicals and toxic fumes.

Statistics actually show the incident rate is three times higher for these industries than any other occupation – and that most injuries occur due to a lack of safety protocol, education, or caution.

Majority (44 per cent) of workplace injuries for tradies involve traumatic joint injuries.

  • 18% involve wounds and lacerations;
  • 15% musculoskeletal disorders (MSD);
  • 10% breaks and fractures.

What is my employer’s duty of care to ensure I’m safe as a tradie?

It’s a question that is frequently asked in the trades industry: “who is responsible for workplace health and safety?”

Well, an employer has the highest duty of care in ensuring workers aren’t exposed to foreseeable injury or illness. And given the current climate, employers have a few extra steps they now have to take by implementing strict COVID safe practices, like:

  • enforcing social distancing and COVID-19 testing;
  • encouraging good hygiene practices;
  • and supplying appropriate PPE including gloves and masks.

But even with strict risk assessment protocol in place, it’s impossible for an employer to prevent all workplace injuries. The responsibility also lies on you as an employee to maintain safe practices both in and out of the workplace.

Just one serious workplace injury can leave you without work and in pain for months, years or even the rest of your life. Before you go cutting corners (which we know many of you do, including employers), think twice about if it’s worth the risk.

Safety tips for tradies

Here are some of our top tips to staying safe and healthy as a tradie. Read more from Queensland Health and charity organisation Mates in Construction.

  • Stay educated and take part in upskilling through TAFE units
  • Adhere to risk assessment practices
  • Kindly refuse tasks that require a special license that you don’t have
  • Practice self-care, including for your physical and mental wellbeing
  • Never lift over 15 kilograms by yourself
  • Be sun-smart and road-smart
  • Wear all necessary safety gear and PPE

What should I do if I’m injured on the job?

If you’ve been injured at work, keep detailed records of the incident, medical bills, notes and certificates. Incident reports are vital to the process, even if it’s a minor injury that may not affect you immediately.

We also recommend seeking independent legal advice about your rights to workers’ compensation (this doesn’t apply if you are self-employed because you’re not considered an employee and can’t insure yourself with workers’ comp specifically).

If you’re unsure of how to report an injury or incident or Workplace Health and Safety Queensland policies, read more in our blog Reporting Incidents and Unsafe Workplaces.

*Tradies National Health month is an initiative by the Australian Physiotherapy Association that raises awareness of the health and injury risks that affect those working in trade occupations.

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