Health Of Construction Workers
So, completing your white card safety induction training aims to keep you safe from any worksite hazards, like injuries from broken machinery or falling from heights whilst working metres above the ground.
But one thing that is commonly overlooked when it comes to health and safety in the construction industry, is the other health hazards that a lot of construction workers choose to expose themselves to.
We’re going to look specifically at the health of those in the construction industry in Queensland, but I’m sure this can be generalized to a lot of other states around Australia.
According to the 2007 – 2008 National Health Survey, when compared to all of the other industries, construction workers in Queensland have:
- The highest level of harmful alcohol consumption – (most likely due to the drunken weekends and ‘after work’ drinks)
- The highest level of smoking
- And the second highest level of overweight or obese individuals.
- Higher blood pressure and high cholesterol – compared to the wider Queensland population
The biggest concern with all of these risk factors is that it places construction works at a higher risk of developing long term chronic diseases. This could include but is not limited to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep disorders, stroke and certain types of cancers.
Without interventions and these workers seeking medical advice to prevent these risks this could actually pose a really significant risk to the business through absenteeism, lost productivity and presenteeism.
When we look at this industry in particular we have to look at what industry factors contribute to the poor health of the workers.
These factors could include but not limited to
- Long working hours – Evidence has shown that workers that averaged 3-4 hours of overtime per day are also double as likely to develop certain chronic diseases. Now this is a big issue for construction workers as it is quite common that they complete overtime and work 10-12 hour days. It might be good money in the pocket – but is it worth risking your health?
- Male dominated workforce – Despite the recent increase of females joining the construction industry – it is still a very male dominated workforce. Evidence also shows that men are less likely to have regular medical checkups or seek help for physical and or mental health issues.
- Transient workforce – It is a common for those in the construction industry to be sent to different workplaces on a regular basis. One day you might be working on one site – and on another day you might be sent to another. This means that workers may be unfamiliar with a worksite and have limited time available to them for health programs and safety training.
- Project Based Work and payment – As a lot of construction workers are sub contractors they generally get paid based on what they product and are individually responsible for their earnings – so their objective is to get the job done as soon as possible and therefore their wellbeing and achieving a proper work life balance are not always a high priority.
So what does this really mean for the industry and the business performance?
Business owners and those running construction sites often look at health as a low priority and don’t do very much to invest in the health of their workers. This can in turn affect the businesses performance significantly and should be considered just as important as ‘getting the cheapest products’ or ‘paying the lowest amount for their contractors’ as poor health can cost a lot of money.
This can show up for numerous reasons – including but not limited to;
Raised levels of fatigue affecting the safe use of plant and machinery
Reduced effectiveness on the worksite due to impaired physical and mental functioning which can lead to delays.
Increased rate of injuries and illnesses which leads to higher workers compensation and means their workers have more time off work and need another worker to replace them.
Increased rate of worksite incidents posing a risk to other workers which in turn can affect compliance and work safe legislation.
It is certainly worth investing in your workers health – not just for their imminent and obvious safety issues but also for the hidden illnesses that can occur due to alcohol consumption, smoking, eating badly and being stressed.