The importance of taking care of yourself and your workmates cannot be underestimated. Whether that be safety, diet, mental health awareness, exercise or dealing with the effects of COVID-19 on your industry. Hopefully these tips can serve as a good reminder to take care of yourself and others. Or if you don’t work in a trade, can prompt you to check in on a partner, friend, family member or anyone else in your life who works in a relevant industry.
There’s no getting away from the fact that a job as a tradesperson is more dangerous than a lot of other industries, such as working an office job. In fact, recent statistics show almost 3 out of 5 serious workplace injuries involve a tradesperson, despite making up just 35% of the workforce.
While sometimes safety procedures and processes can seem like a burden that slows you down, “risking it” or cutting corners with safety can have dire consequences. Saving a few seconds here and there isn’t worth it when you consider the risk doing so could pose to yourself or those you work with. Many injuries can occur as a result of physically overexerting yourself, remember to do the basics such as bending your knees when lifting, avoiding twisting motions and using lifts and equipment to carry heavy loads where possible. And always ask for help if you can’t do something, it’s better to speak up than stay silent due to fear of how it makes you look.
Just as you need the right tools for any given job, making sure you have the right personal protective equipment (PPE) is just as essential. Helmets, high-vis and other PPE might feel cumbersome or add unwanted heat during summer, but they play a vital role in keeping you safe while working.
Regardless of gender, the expectation of those working in the trades is often aligned with masculine culture which commonly involves not talking about your feelings or struggles. As more and more women enter trades, hopefully this stigma will change. However, your industry, company or job title should never make you feel any less comfortable to admit you’re not doing well or feel able to reach out to loved ones or a trained professional if affected by mental health struggles, depression or anxiety.
Having your mental health in check can have a variety of benefits, but it can also make your day job safer as well. In many cases, a tradesperson can have a lot of time to think while doing manual labour. If not in a good headspace, that can be a bad thing and can lead to distractions that can affect the ability to conduct your job in a safe manner. If you feel you’re struggling with your mental health, reach out to those around you. In many cases they may be going through or have been through something similar, but often you don’t find out until you speak up.
The stereotypical tradesperson's lifestyle is often one filled with fast food, snacks and sugary energy drinks. The hard work of many jobs and their often-early start times can make it very tempting to go for fast, convenient options that offer a quick fix, but what you consume can eventually catch up with you.
When lunchtime rolls around and others around you are going to a fast food chain it can be hard to make a healthy choice on the spot, so being prepared and packing a lunch when you pack your tools can take away the temptation. It’s important to also pack snacks too, otherwise you can undo all the good work you’ve done by buying morning and afternoon snacks from convenience stores or service stations. Remember to pack a few snacks. If you have a very arduous job, you’ll burn a lot of energy, so pack an extra muesli bar or banana. It’s better to pack too many healthy snacks.
Drink lots of water as well. A coffee to begin your day and throughout the day is fine, but make sure you’re getting enough water to keep you hydrated. If you’re doing manual labour, you’re expending a lot of energy, are likely to sweat and need to replenish your fluids. This is even more important if you’re regularly working outside in the sun. Regularly topping up your drink bottle should go hand in hand with reapplying sunscreen.
Many tradespeople do a lot of physical work as part of their day job; however, this doesn’t mean you don’t need to exercise. You may not need to exercise as much as those who hold desk jobs but it’s still important to make time to look after yourself. Weights and stretching can also help you strengthen the muscles you use at work and helps minimise the risk of injury in your day to day.
If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy running or working up a sweat in the gym, then joining an organised sports team can be a good way to go. Between playing games and training, you’ve already got two of the three days of recommended weekly exercise sorted.
Working during a pandemic
COVID-19 has affected every workplace, and industries tradespeople work in have been no exception. Manual labour, often outside, with a face mask on all day is not pleasant. Adding site shut downs and tradespersons not being allowed in homes at various points during lockdowns make for an uncertain work landscape. While face masks and extra rules aren’t fun for anyone, following safety advice and guidelines can help ensure you don’t catch the virus and make sure an outbreak doesn’t shut down your worksite.