August is Tradies National Health Month, an occasion to raise awareness of the different health risks affecting those who work in the trade industry. Tradies are the hardest working people in Australia, but their job comes with many occupational hazards. From exercise to counselling, there are several things you can do to lead a healthy life as a tradie.
Practice good lifting form
Most workplace injuries are often attributed to tradies taking shortcuts and lifting too much at once. That’s why you should never rush heavy-duty tasks.
When lifting heavy objects, make sure to use the correct form and technique. This means keeping a wide base of support, keeping your upper back straight, and bending at the hips and knees. As you’re lifting, straighten your lower body — not your back — and keep your chest up where possible. Avoid twisting your body or bending your back, as this can often result in lower back problems. Keep loads close to your body to ensure stability and proper form. You can also reduce the risk of injury by reducing the speed of your lift and the distance you carry an object.
Of course, if the object is too heavy to carry by yourself, don’t hesitate to grab a mate. This reduces the risk of injury and accidents on the job site.
Maintain your mobility
Tradies do a lot of strenuous tasks repetitively, which can result in tightness all over the body. To avoid this, you should stretch regularly for 5–10 minutes, holding each position for 30 seconds. If you are constantly bending over to pick things up, reverse your position with some back extension exercises every morning. This could be as simple as lying on your stomach and arching your back when you’re at home. Other stretches to add to your daily routine include:
- Horizontal arm extensions
- Cross-body shoulder stretch
- Overhead tricep stretch
- Seated toe touches
- Quad stretch
- Calf stretch
Staying active enhances your performance at work and allows you to lead a happier lifestyle. Whether it’s weightlifting or playing footy, make sure the exercise you do is something you enjoy on a regular basis. Strength- and endurance-based workouts improve your lifting form and increase your stamina.
Additionally, daily core exercises are essential, as pretty much every activity you do on the job involves your core. Crunches and planking exercises are a great way to strengthen your core and reduce the risk of back injuries. For optimal results, try Pilates or yoga. Most of the exercises in these workouts are focused on core muscle groups, enabling better function, flexibility, and movement.
Eat a balanced diet
Due to the fast-paced nature of trades work, it’s often tempting to eat at local corner stores and fast food joints. While these places are convenient, the food options (e.g., sausage rolls and chips) aren’t the most nutritious. Instead, you should eat a clean diet with the right balance of carbohydrates, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Not only does it give you more energy, but it also prevents a host of diet-related diseases.
Pack nutritious meals like whole-wheat sandwiches, carrots, and bananas in your esky to keep them cool and fresh during the day. Take leftovers from dinner to save yourself an expensive and unhealthy trip to Macca’s. Snacks such as nuts, seeds, and fruits are also a great way to satiate cravings. Finally, drink at least 2–3 litres of water every day to stay hydrated and sharp on the job.
Be sun safe
Too much sun exposure can lead to sunburn, dehydration, heatstroke, and skin cancer. Since tradies often spend a large portion of their day outdoors, appropriate sun protection is a must. Wearing hats, sunglasses, and long-sleeved shirts provides a good level of blockage from the sun. What’s more, regularly applying SPF 30 or higher sunscreen gives you the best protection from overexposure.
Don’t ignore the warning signs
Tradies often associate pain as part of the job and try to brush it off, but this is a dangerous mindset. If you’re experiencing aches and pains, see a physiotherapist early to prevent small issues from becoming chronic problems. Long-term injuries affect both your work and personal life, so never hide your discomfort.
Protect your mental health
The nature of trade work also takes its toll psychologically. According to MensLine Australia, tradesmen suicide rates are significantly higher than tradeswomen. Young tradesmen are also 2.3 times more likely to take their own life than other men. The causes of these suicides are many and varied, including exhaustion, tight deadlines, and difficulty maintaining a work-life balance. There’s also a culture among tradies to keep their problems to themselves, which adds to their feeling of isolation and depression.
However, monitoring your mental health is just as crucial as managing your physical well-being. If you’re feeling stressed at work, don’t be afraid to seek out help. There are plenty of online, over-the-phone, and in-person counselling services to help you cope with your issue. For example, Lifeline and Mates in Construction are accessible crisis support lines for when you need someone to talk to.
Make sure you take time off work, too. Spending some time with family or going on a trip may be just what you need to unwind.
Being a tradie is tough work, which is why it’s important to take care of yourself accordingly. If you have any questions about our health and wellness tips, feel free to ask us to elaborate. WorkBuddy is also a powerful job management solution that helps you ensure the health and safety of your workers and job sites. Request a free demo today.