Men and women working in the trades industry are among the most at risk of injuries and musculoskeletal conditions. Poor health and injuries result in time off work which then affects employees health, families, employers and businesses.
The Irish construction sector is characterised by relatively high levels of regulation related to everyday health and safety on building sites. Furthermore, all of those who are involved in on-site work are required to complete the Safe Pass course which focuses on safety aspects of the job. According to a 2015 report* on Working Conditions in Ireland there were 768 injuries reported in this sector in 2012 and these accounted for 11.6 per cent of all injuries reported in that year for all professions in Ireland. Labourers, technicians, machinery operators and drivers are the top four trade occupations most impacted. The most common cause of injury is muscular stress caused by lifting, carrying, or putting objects down.
Understanding the risks posed at work, and how to prevent them, could make all the difference for you and your employees. We look at some of the ways tradespeople can manage their own and their staff’s health and safety.
Managing your own health and safety
A healthy body is the most important tool in your kit. So, take responsibility of your own health and safety, and:
- Educate yourself on the safest ways to carry out work tasks – and ask your employer for more information if you’re unsure
- Speak to your boss about holding an information session, or providing training and resources to your team
- Don’t do something that you feel could put you at risk – ask for help from your co-workers or manager when you need it
- Take regular breaks – even if it’s just to stretch or grab a drink of water
- Look after yourself – eat well, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and stay hydrated
- Don’t ignore pain – if something hurts or feels out of the ordinary, get it checked out by a health professional as soon as possible
Managing your employees’ health and safety
Lose a team member to injury or poor health and you could lose a client, a job, or even your business. Spreading the message from the top down is important if you want your staff to follow suit. Start by:
- Assessing each worksite and job for risks and health hazards, and implementing changes immediately to improve safety
- Establishing rules and processes around health and safety, such as not starting a job until a risk assessment has been undertaken, and ensuring accidents can be easily reported
- Nurturing a culture in your business that values safety, for example by encouraging staff to take regular breaks and ensuring any equipment they need is well maintained and always on hand
- Consulting staff about how you can help them feel safer and healthier at work
- Offering regular education and training to staff, from simple demonstrations of safe manual handling techniques to expert-led sessions on stretches designed to help prevent workplace injuries
- Providing best-practice resources and related signage around the workplace
- Talking to staff members you see carrying out tasks in a way that could be detrimental to their own health and safety, or the health of others
- Implementing programs to support staff who are injured at work
*Working Conditions in Ireland Project 2015 by Alicja Bobek and James Wickham