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Electricians welcome investment into preventing construction injuries

To change attitudes and get people on the tools working safer and smarter, Master Electricians has teamed up with charitable trust Construction Health and Safety New Zealand (CHASNZ) to launch the Work Should Not Hurt programme.

Work Should Not Hurt aims to ensure tradespeople can enjoy long, pain-free careers and retire when they need to – not prematurely through injury.

The electrical industry currently has high numbers entering the industry which include, women and those leaving school entering the workforce. The industry recognises the need to retain this sort-after talent pool and reduce the extent workers consider injuries are part of the job.

“There are many things electricians and their companies can do to prevent injuries now, but we need a long-term commitment to prevent the wear and tear injuries that many people end up with at the end of their careers,” says CHASNZ programme manager and Ergonomist Chris Polaczuk.

“At a time of unprecedented stress and demand in the industry we have to help workers to look after their bodies as well as their minds. We rely on them so much every day. They are our brothers and sisters, mums and dads. Together we can take steps to reduce preventable sprains and strains in the construction industry.”

Everybody knows  someone who works in construction who has a sore back, injured shoulder, or crook knees. Many simply accept that working through sprains and strains comes with the territory.

While soldiering on may seem like the best thing for the job, such injuries can have a significant impact on the construction industry if not taken seriously.

“It’s a sad and problematic attitude in our industry,” says Pete Finegan , who spent years working as an Electrician before becoming the National Health and Safety Manager at Master Electricians.

“It’s a constant train of construction-related injuries, 50 per cent or more could be avoided by having a kōrero. There’s a different way to get the work done efficiently, at the same time protecting yourself and taking care of your body, instead of just beating yourself up every week.”

A trade-wide issue

Sprains and strains are the Electrical industry’s most common injury.

In 2020, ACC received 831 soft-tissue injury claims from the Electrical sector, resulting in a total of 26,487 days off work at an average of 32 days per claim.

ACC funding has allowed CHASNZ to engage with the industry and develop a practical ergonomics programme. This includes educational material for apprentices, easy-to-understand resources and guides, equipment trials, ‘Toolbox Talks’ workshops as well as a customised website for the trade to understand their injury data.

Too many people working in the trades are injuring their lower back, shoulders and wrists, in that order.

Most of these injuries are preventable and the Work Should Not Hurt programme works with the industry to identify and solve their unique set of problems.

“Specific things tradespeople can do to reduce injuries include reducing working overhead, getting work up off the ground, finding smarter ways of moving heavy stuff, having good planning and communication, keeping healthy and managing stress,” says ACC injury prevention leader James Whitaker.

“Our research shows that 90 per cent of all injuries are predictable and therefore preventable. The trades are no different.

“If you get injured it impacts your friends, family and work mates. Injury prevention can also positively influence other factors critical to business, such as retention, career progression, productivity and worker wellbeing.”

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