Tradies National Health Month: how to get involved

Operating your own trade business puts a lot of demand on your time, your energy, and your finances. No arguments about that, right? But there’s one component to running a business that’s most neglected — the physical and mental health of both you and your employees. Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) has named August as ‘Tradies National Health Month’, but why?

Here are the facts:

  1. Safework Australia states that approximately 60% of all serious workers compensation claims are made by tradies

2. 10 tradies, everyday, are injured at work

3. About 1 in 5 workers are likely to suffer from mental health issues such as depression and anxiety

By highlighting these issues, Australian Physiotherapy Association aims to raise awareness and provide resources for tradies and employers on the importance of physical and mental health, and safety. With the stats this high, odds are that you, or someone you work with or employ, will injure themselves on the job or suffer from a mental health condition.

So what can you do to improve the health and safety culture in your trade business?

1. Make sure safety training is up to date

According to WHS Regulations, all work activities involving construction, aka all trades, require SWMS. Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) are documents that outline high risk activities, the hazards that are involved with these activities, and how these hazards can be controlled.

In our own trade business, we hold meetings with our tradies fortnightly. At each meeting, we spend approximately half an hour going over these SWMS. They all have to covered within a 12month period. Once complete, they simply continue to rotate.

This ensures their safety training is up to date and reduces the risk of anyone getting hurt!

2. Put systems in place to ensure risk assessments are done for EVERY job

A risk assessment is a process that identifies potential hazards at a work site and provides solutions to reduce or eliminate these risks. This should be the first thing your tradesman complete as soon as they arrive on site – no “if’s” or “but’s”.

Make sure you have systems in place that ensure these are completed. Whether that be you or your admin staff checking the tradesman has completed it after each job or even incentives for those who perhaps complete a risk assess on each job for a month straight.

By doing this, your staff will be actively thinking about how they can stay safe at every job.

This subject is such a blurred line, but the reality is, you’ll only get in trouble when someone gets hurt. It can all be preventable if you simply take responsibility as the owner of the business and integrate risk assessments on every job.

3. Monitor and manage workloads

Encourage your team to speak up at an early stage and seek guidance if they need it.

Make sure you are constantly aware of what each tradesman is doing throughout the week. If you are aware that there is a job coming up where a tradesman will need to lift heavy items, ensure they are up to date with the correct lifting procedures and/or send multiple tradies to the job (or hire outside help).

4. Support staff with health conditions

Where necessary, and in collaboration with your staff, make changes to roles, rosters and/or working environment to enable them to fulfil their work duties.
If an employee hurts themselves on the job, make sure they go home or seek medical attention. Don’t let their insistent pleas of, ‘I’ll be fine I swear’ and your want to complete a job on time cloud your judgement.

5. Reduce the stigma surrounding mental health conditions

Speak openly about mental health conditions in the workplace and encourage others to do the same. Further to this, provide staff with information about looking after their own mental health. You could do this simply by sticking pamphlets with resources available in the tradies trucks, lunch areas or on the office notice board. These things create an open culture, where staff feel safe and confident seeking help when needed.

Another great resource to consider is R U Okay Day; a day dedicated to reminding people close to you that it’s okay to have meaningful conversations about their mental well-being with you. Whilst this organisation has labeled September 14th 2017 as ‘R U OK’ Day, it is important to ask your employees this whenever you feel it’s necessary to check in on their mental health. However, this topic needs to be broached carefully in an environment where your employees feel safe responding honestly. Make sure you pull them aside, away from distractions or the ‘listening ears’ of others to have this conversation.

The importance of mental health for all tradies and trade business owners is extremely important to us here at Lifestyle Tradie. That is why we have recently partnered up with Gotcha4Life, a not-for-profit foundation taking action in building mental fitness and reducing suicides in the community through education, engagement and empowerment. You can find founder of Gotcha4Life, Gus Worland on ‘The Tradie Show’ talking through how to build your own mental fitness.

6. Prevent bullying and discrimination

Encourage an environment of dignity and respect so that employees can share any concerning behaviour at an early stage; make it clear that you support open communication, and ensure you have processes and/or policies in place to deal with any issues. The subject of bullying should feature in your employee handbook. This way, all employees know the rules from the beginning, no exceptions. By implementing these regulations and support systems in your trade business, you can keep yourself and your team on the right track to a healthy life.

For more information on this, visit Australia Physiotherapy Associations website and get behind the movement by following the hashtag #tradieshealth.

What’s next?

  1. Join our free Facebook group, ‘Together in Trade Business’, for access to trade business specific conversations, tips and resources, plus a like-minded community of tradies.
  2. Listen to our #1 trade business podcast, ‘The Tradie Show – Together in Trade Business’ every week for tradie tips and expert knowledge to boost your business!
  3. Book a free 15-minute Strategy Session with Andy, founder of Lifestyle Tradie, to clarify your priorities and get clear action steps.