Physiotherapists call for health and safety to be a priority as tradies return to work

3 February 2015

As Australia's hundreds of thousands of tradies settle back into work for 2015, the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is urging employers and workers to make health and safety a priority to reduce the $60 billion spent on work injuries each year.(1)

APA National President and physiotherapist Marcus Dripps said now is the time to review occupational health and safety procedures to ensure a safe year ahead.

“While workplace injuries are on the decline, each year we spend billions of dollars on work-related injury and illnesses, many of which should be prevented. And tradies are among those highest at risk,” Mr Dripps said.

“This is the time of year to review your safety procedures, retrain and educate your staff, develop a supportive return-to-work culture, and make sure you’ve got the best measures in place to prevent injuries,” said Mr Dripps.

Research shows one in five serious workplace-related injuries involve a tradie. (2) Sprains and strains (42%) and musculoskeletal disorders (14%) are also the two highest work-related injury or disease claims, with body stress (40%) being one of the prime cause for these injuries. (1) Tradies are also among one of the largest proportions of occupations with the highest incidence of early retirement. (3)

“If you do injure yourself – our message is simple: stop ignoring aches and pains and seek treatment immediately,” Mr Dripps said. “Often we’ll see tradies with injuries that could’ve been managed well before they became serious. It’s unfortunately a common mentality of the sector that needs to change.”

The APA is urging trade workplaces to make health and safety a priority and confirm their involvement in Tradies National Health Month for 2015 via www.tradieshealth.com.au.

Mr Dripps has also shares the APA’s tips for preventing long-term disability and work loss through: (4)

1. Intervening early and identifying needs:
Seeing a health professional like an APA physiotherapist is important for identifying the injury, seeking initial treatment, and referring to appropriate management immediately.

2. Evaluating and treating clinically:
Clinically evaluating and providing a range of physiotherapy treatments can potentially reduce disability and promote return to activity, including work.

3. Focussing on early return to work and work maintenance outcomes:
Research shows greater return-to-work success with programs that include workplace arrangements aimed at facilitating return to work.

4. Developing a supportive workplace culture:
Studies on people six months post-surgery has shown the rate of return to work was nearly twice as high for workers who perceived a higher level of ‘people-oriented culture’ in the workplace and higher safety culture including ‘active safety leadership’.

5. Developing targeted education and self-managed active rehabilitation:
Providing active rehabilitation such as graded physical exercise and resuming activities workers may have stopped using active coping strategies early also helps. Physiotherapists are well placed to inform, educate, guide and support the worker to restore function and achieve timely and effective return to work.

6. Integrating into the workplace
The best return to work results comes from incorporating the program into the workplace and providing worksite ergonomic assessments. Workplace interventions lead to almost two and a half times faster results for returning to work.

7. Monitoring and reviewing regularly
Monitoring and reviewing the worker’s progress against return to work goals and risk factors is important. Physiotherapists can match suitable duties to the worker’s capabilities and implement regular upgrading of work hours and suitable duties to assist in recovery.

8. Evaluating the outcomes
It’s important to evaluate the results and incorporate what’s been learnt into workplace occupational health and safety programs to prevent similar incidences occurring.

For further information, or to speak with an expert physiotherapist, please contact:

Katie Croft - Australian Physiotherapy Association
P: (+61) 3 9092 0891 M (+61) 0413 780 545
E katie.croft@physiotherapy.asn.au

References
1) Safe Work Australia, 2011, Manufacturing (www.swa.gov.au)
2) Arthritis and Osteoporosis Victoria, 2013, A Problem Worth solving: The Rising Cost of Musculoskeletal Conditions in Australia. Retrieved online June 2014 (http://www.arthritisvic.org.au/
Useful-Information/About-Us/A-Problem-Worth-Solving/APWS-foreword-
and-exec-summary.aspx) 
3) Australian Centre for Financial Studies, March 2014 (http://www.australiancentre.com.au/News/involuntary-retirement-characteristics-and-implications)
4) Australian Physiotherapy Association, Position Statement: The Physiotherapist’s role in occupational rehabilitation, viewed at http://www.physiotherapy.asn.au/DocumentsFolder/APAWCM/Advocacy/PositionStatement_2017_Thephysiotherapist%E2%80%99s_role_occ_rehabilitation.pdf on 30 January 2015

About the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA)
The Australian Physiotherapy Association is the peak body representing the interests of 16,700 Australian physiotherapists and their patients. APA Occupational Health Physiotherapists (OHPs) are certified to have additional training and experience in working with individuals and employers to improve the prevention and treatment of work related injury and illness.

About Tradies National Health Month
Tradies National Health Month, held in August by APA, promotes full health and wellbeing for tradies. It’s aimed to stop tradies ignoring their health in the workplace. For more information, visit www.tradieshealth.com.au.