According to Safe Work Australia, tradies make up more than 30% of Australia’s workforce, and with this high percentage of workers comes an equally high chance of risk of injury due to the strenuous physical exertion and repetitive actions generally associated with these jobs.
All workers employed in Australia should understand their workplace rights but having a high-risk job means that tradespeople should be especially aware of what their rights are in relation to the workplace, what insurance claims they are entitled to make if they do suffer a workplace injury, and what the compensation can be used for.
What rights do tradies have in the workplace?
Under Australian law, all employers have a duty of care to their workers to ensure they are not injured (either physically or psychologically) during the course of their work. Every employee has the right to a safe workplace, including tradespeople, regardless of whether they are employed on a full-time, part-time or casual basis.
What rights does a contractor have in the workplace?
If a tradesperson is a contractor working on the premises of a company that does not employ them they should be covered by a workers compensation scheme that has been taken out by the company that employs them directly. Usually, this will be a labour-hire company, not the client for who they are performing the work. Sole traders will be required to take out their own workers' compensation insurance. Tradespeople working on a construction site may alternatively be covered by a policy covering that particular site.
What are the most common injuries sustained by tradies?
Tradies usually operate in environments that have a high instance of risks and hazards and work with tools and machinery that can be very dangerous if mishandled. This, combined with repetitive actions, loud noises, and potential exposure to harmful materials or electricals means they are more susceptible to injuries than, say, an office worker.
Some of the most common injuries sustained by tradies include:
- broken or fractured bones;
- traumatic joint injuries;
- cuts or lacerations;
- musculoskeletal disorders;
- industrial deafness; and
- respiratory-related illness.
Psychological illnesses sustained through workplace bullying, harassment and discrimination are also on the rise, with a 2021 report by RMIT identifying that 95 percent of women working in trades felt they were discriminated against by men in the industry because of their gender.
What types of claims are covered under workers' compensation?
Claims for workers' compensation are made for all of the aforementioned injuries in cases where on-site workplace health and safety laws were not adhered to correctly or at all, to the detriment of the workers’ health.
Increasingly, tradies who work with power tools are making claims for related injuries, often referred to as ‘hand-arm vibration syndrome’, which occurs when power tools are used for long periods of time. Respiratory-related illnesses are also increasingly common as the industry learns more about the harmful effects of synthetic stone used predominantly in bathroom and kitchen renovations. The asbestos and silica inhaled as a result of cutting these types of materials can lead to severe, long-term illnesses including lung cancer and mesothelioma.
What can compensation be used for?
Workers' compensation can be used to cover the cost of medical and rehabilitation appointments, lost income and superannuation and lost future earnings.
If the injury is permanent, the loss of quality of life or added expenses due to the injury (such as ongoing care or home modifications) will also be factored into the settlement.
If you are a tradie who has sustained an injury at work, contact our experienced workers' compensation lawyers on (07) 4052 0700, who work on a “no win, no fee” basis and who can help you navigate the claim process.