Long, demanding work days, a stressful work-life balance; these are all parts of life that may be familiar to tradespeople, especially those who are self-employed.
All of these things can be contributors to poor mental health. Conversations around mental health have become more and more common, but wellbeing is something that should be taken seriously in the workplace too.
Amongst the trades, however, it may not be a subject that is widely discussed.
Troubling data surfaced last year as the Office of National Statistics reported that the risk of suicide amongst those in building trades is 1.6 times higher than the UK average.
Of the number of suicides recorded, 38% is made up by the trades industry as a whole.
When it comes to supporting employees, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advise:
- Speaking out at an early stage
- Using routine management tools to identify problems
- Being sensitive and supportive
Sometimes, even the simplest of changes can have a huge impact. One of these simple changes is illustrated by Geoff.
Speaking about his experience of occupational skin disorders (OSDs), the 65-year-old tradesman said: “It was so severe that I couldn’t grip.
“Not being able to make a cup of tea. Not being able to use a knife and fork properly. All these things affect the mental state of someone.”
Skin diseases are the second most common work-related health problem in Europe. Sore, swollen, cracked, itchy, or blistered skin are just some of the symptoms that can be experienced.
Two out of five workers will suffer a skin issue at some point in their working life, and they can often go unreported.
A serious health issue, OSDs often go unreported and have huge impacts on businesses as well as individuals.
For electricians, skin disorders are especially common.
Prolonged contact with unpleasant contaminants and irritants, along with harsh working conditions such as damp and cold environments, can all exacerbate skin disorders.
For a trade that is so hands on, gripping tools and simple tasks can become more difficult as skin disorders take their toll on your tools of the trade.
What is clear is that physical health has a direct impact on wellbeing. Geoff continued: “It affect you mentally; it’s very demoralising.”
Jason, a 41-year-old labourer, added: “There’s a lot more that could be done. There’s not a lot of information out there.”
What may seem to be small impacts on skin and hand condition can go on to have lasting and serious impacts – not only on physical health, but mental health and wellbeing.
As Jason said, more information is needed when it comes to great quality skin care. A three-step approach is vital:
- Before work, the skin should be prepared with a protection cream, providing a protective layer and making the skin easier to clean
- During work, the hands should be washed with an appropriate strength hand cleaner after each contact with a contaminant
- After work, hands should be restored with moisturising cream
For more information and advice on workplace skin care, call 01773 855 100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.