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Tradies Health Month - August 2016

This Article Has Been Prepared By The Australian Physiotherapy Association

 

About The Tradies National Health Month 'Snapshot'

Marcus Dripps, APA National President

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) has compiled the following health snapshot to highlight the need to improve the health, safety and wellbeing of tradies* in Australia.

This snapshot gathers research and insights to highlight the extent of the issue and solutions to create change.  While musculoskeletal injuries like back and neck injuries remain among the top health issues facing tradies, other chronic health conditions and disability post risks to this demographic.

Beyond the quality of life impacts these health issues have on the individual and their families, there are significant impacts to business, the health system and the economy.  These impacts will grow if we don't improve information and access for tradies to evidence-based care like physiotherapy.

Physiotherapists play a critical role in providing early healthcare intervention support - by diagnosing, treating and preventing disease and disability through physical means.  Working in partnership with their patients, physiotherapists can help them recover from injury, reduce pain and stiffness, increase mobility, and prevent injury.

The APA is proud to lead Tradies National Health Month each year to champion awareness and create tools to enable tradies to take control of their health and stay well.

Tradies' health must be everyone's priority.  As the national member association of physiotherapists, we believe all Australians should have access to quality physiotherapy, when and where required, to optimise health and wellbeing.

 

Tradies Have A High Risk Of Serious Injury

Rates of serious claims by occupation (2012-13)
Tradies have among the highest serious injury and disease compensation claims in Australia, according to Safe Work Australia data.  Labourers, technicians, and machinery operators and drivers are among the top four occupations when it comes to the number of serious injury claims.

OccupationIncidence rate (claims per 1000 employees)Frequency rate (claims per million hours)
Labourers27.018.7
Machinery operators and drivers24.412.3
Community and personal service workers17.813.9
Technicians and trade workers15.48.0
Sales workers6.04.8
Professionals4.82.7
Clerical and administrative workers4.02.5
Managers4.32.0
Total11.16.7

The Primary Causes Of Serious Claims

Of all occupations

 

33% Were From Muscular Stress While Lifing Or Handling Objects

 

 

22% WERE FROM FALLS, TRIPS AND SLIPS

Watch More Than Just Your Back

The majority of serious claims are from injuries and musculoskeletal disorders, including traumatic joint, ligament, muscle and tendon injuries.

What Is The Issue?

 

  • While musculoskeletal disorders remain high, the number of serious claims fell by 7% between 2000-01 and 2011-12
  • However, claims arising from diseases increased by 4% between 2000-01 and 2011-12.

Watch More Than Just Your Back

Serious claims: percentage by nature of injury or disease 2012-13 in all occupations
Injury & Musculoskeletal Disorders
Traumatic joint/libament & muscle/tendon injury44.7%
Musculoskeletal & connective tissue diseases15.2%
Wounds, lacerations, amputations & internal organ damage15.2%
Fractures9.2%
Other injuries3.0%
Burn1.7%
Intracranial injuries0.5%
Injury to nerves & spinal cord0.2%
Total injury & musculoskeletal disorders89.80%
Diseases
Mental disorders5.9%
Digestive system diseases2.2%
Nervous system & sense organ diseases1.0%
Skin & subcutaneous tissue diseases0.5%
Infectious & parasitic diseases0.2%
Respiratory system diseases0.2%
Circulatory system diseases0.1%
Other diseases0.1%
Total diseases10.20%
For tradies specifically - Injury and musculoskeletal disorders rates of claims
OccupationFrequency rate (serious claims per million hours worked)Incidence rate (serious claims per 1000 employees)
Labourers18.725.1
Machinery operators and drivers11.222.3
Technicians and trade workers7.414.4
For tradies specifically - disease rates of claims
OccupationFrequency rate (serious claims per million hours worked)Incidence rate (serious claims per 1000 employees)
Labourers1.81.3
Machinery operators and drivers2.11.1
Technicians and trade workers1.10.5

What Body Parts Are Affected?

While backs still present the highest proportion of body stress injury claims, other body parts affected include upper limbs, lower legs, hips, the abdomen and the pelvic region.

Falls, trips and slips of a person: serious claims by body part among all occupations

  • The back (upper or lower) had the highest claims, yet this fell by 21% between 2000-01 and 2011-12
  • The only major physical location group to show an increase in serious claims between 2000-01 and 2011-12 was lower limbs, which was largely driven by a 21% increase in the number of lower leg-related serious claims and a 17% increase in hip-related claims.
Lateral epicondylalgia (LE) - or in other words, tennis elbow
  • LE most commmonly affects the dominant arm, particularly when performing repetitive activity
  • The greatest burden of LE is among manual working populations where musculoskeletal upper limb injuries account for some of the longest work absences
  • This results in an absence from work of up to 219 workdays, with direct costs of $10,892 per person
  • Data from WorkCover Queensland indicates that upper limb (shoulder and elbow) injuries account for 18% of all work-related claims (2009-2013), which is equal to the prevalence of back injuries
Lateral Epicondylalgia (LE) - or in other words, tennis elbow
  • LE most commmonly affects the dominant arm, particularly when performing repetitive activity
  • The greatest burden of LE is among manual working populations where musculoskeletal upper limb injuries account for some of the longest work absences
  • Up to 17% of workers in industries that involve highly repetitive hand tasks experience LE
  • This results in an absence from work of up to 219 workdays, with direct costs of $10,892 per person
  • Data from WorkCover Queensland indicates that upper limb (shoulder and elbow) injuries account for 18% of all work-related claims (2009-2013), which is equal to the prevalence of back injuries

Older Tradies Could Have Higher Health Risks

Serious claims are increasing among those aged 55+

  • Older employees in all occupations had higher frequency rates of serious claims than younger employees over a 12-year period (2000-01 and 2012-13).
  • The proportion of all serious claims awarded to employees aged 55 and above rose from (% in 2000-01to 18% in 2011-12.
  • This has exceeded the proportion of all serious claims awarded to employees aged 15-24 years since 2007-08

Chronic Health Conditions And Other Long Term Impacts

  • Workers such as tradespersons and labourers, and industries such as agriculture and construction have high rates of chronic health conditions.1
  • One study found that retirement from the construction industry due to disability is around 143% more common than in the general population.2 It found that compared with the white collar workers, a higher prevalence of hearing deficiencies, signs of obstructive lung diseases, increased body mass index, and musculoskeletal abnormalities were found among the construction workers at the baseline exam.
  • During the follow up period, 141 men died and 341 men left the labour market due to disability. Compared with white collar workers, the construction workers showed a 3.5 to 8.4-fold increased rate of disability (P<0.05) for all occupational groups and a 1.2 to 2.1-fold increased all cause mortality (NS).2
1. Deborah J Schofield. Med J Aust
2. Arndt V1 et al, Occup Environ Med

What Is The Cost?

The total estimated cost of work-related injuries and diseases is rising.

  • In 2008-09 the total estimated cost of work-related injuries and diseases was $60.6 billion among all occupations
  • Between 2000-01 and 2011-12, the median time lost from work for a serious claim rose by 29% from 4.2 working weeks to 5.4 working weeks
  • Over the same period, the median compensation paid rose by 71% from $5200 to $8900.
Cost of work-related injuries and diseases
2000-012005-062008-09
Total estimated cost$34.4 billion$57.5 billion$60.6 billion
Estimated cost as a percentage of GDP5%5.9%4.8%
Percentage of cost borne by workers44%49%74%
Percentage of cost borne by community53%47%21%
Percentage of cost borne by employers3%4%5%
Source: The Cost of Work-Related Injury and Illness for Australian Employers, Workers and the Community, 2008-09, Safe Work Australia
Serious claims: median time lost and compensation paid by industry, 2000-01 to 2011-12
Occupation2000-012007-082008-092009-102010-112011-12% change
Labourers4.14.54.85.05.25.227%
Technicians and trade workers4.04.24.44.54.65.025%
Community and personal service workers4.04.94.84.65.04.922%
Machinery operators and drivers4.44.95.25.05.65.832%
Median compensation paid
Occupation2000-012007-082008-092009-102010-112011-12% change
Labourers$4400$5600$6500$7000$7400$780077%
Technicians and trade workers$5000$6400$7400$7900$8200$850070%
Community and personal service workers$4600$6200$6600$6500$7100$710054%
Machinery operators and drivers$5900$7800$8600$9000$10400$1040076%

What Can We Do To Prevent The Issue?

It is vital tradies become more aware and active in improving their health and safety.  Early injury intervention and treatment through evidence-based care, including physiotherapy, must be part of the solution to prolong working careers, reduce time away from work and improve general wellbeing.

Employers, peak bodies and government need to acknowledge the significant role they play in ensuring their workers are fit-for-work and offer appropriate support when it comes to preventative health measures.

While it is essential individuals and employers consult with a physiotherapist for a tailored program, general tips for preventing injury include:
  • ensure tasks are risk assessed regularly to reduce the strain
  • check the equipment you are using is adequate, easily handled and fit for purpose
  • use good posture and technique when handling objects eg: keep your chest up where possible
  • keep your core strong by exercising regularly. Pilates focuses on this area of physical wellbeing
  • keep your flexibility by doing 5-10 minutes of stretching every morning
  • maintain quality sleep and nutrition to ensure you have the energy to remain well, alert and sage throughout the day.

Partner With Physiotherapy For Workplace Change

Visit tradieshealth.com.au to find out how you can get involved.

References