August was Tradies National Health Month. A tradie’s most valuable tool is their body and so workplace health and safety is the key to being able to earn their income. Amber Wang, Senior Associate with Snedden Hall & Gallop Lawyers, talks here about what to do if you are a tradie and injured at work.

What are the risks?

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) recently commissioned a report into tradie health: Australian Tradies – Health Research Report, June 2018.  This report gives an interesting insight into tradie culture. The APA reported that, of the tradies surveyed:

  • 79% take good care of their tools, but only 47% took good care of their bodies.
  • 64% had been injured in their current job, and half of them expected to be injured again.
  • 22% did not seek assistance from a health professional for their injury.
  • 55% thought that aches and pains were just a normal part of the work that they perform.
  • 24% said that they would think a workmate was ‘a wuss’ if they complained about an injury.

The APA should be applauded for highlighting tradies’ health. People should not have to bear the burden of long-term niggling and deteriorating injuries for undertaking their work. And the work of tradies is vital to the functioning of our households and communities.
According to Safe Work Australia’s most recent statistics (2015–2016), serious injuries are largely accounted for by labourers (25%), technicians and trades workers (18%), and community and personal service workers. Together, this group of employees, who only make up 34% of the workforce, make up over 50% of all serious injury claims.
Interestingly, despite making up a large proportion of the injuries, technicians and trades workers had the lowest time lost as a result of their injuries (an average of 5 weeks).

What do you do if you’re a tradie injured at work?

The first step is to seek medical treatment. Next, you should consider if may be entitled to compensation while you are off work. And when the medical bills start rolling in.
In Canberra, some tradies are employed by the Commonwealth or associated agencies (and covered under the Comcare scheme). Others will be self-employed. However, most tradies are likely to be employed by private companies, which are each insured in accordance with the Workers’ Compensation Act 1951 (WCA).

What steps must you take?

  • Provide a Notice of Injury to your employer as soon as possible, and ensure the injury is listed in their register of injuries. The employer must give notice to their insurer within 48 hours of receiving the notification. If you are off work for more than 7 days, the insurer must contact you, your employer and your doctor within 3 business days.
  • Obtain a claim form from your employer, and a Certificate of Capacity from your GP confirming you are unfit for work. You must then provide both of these to your employer once completed. Your employer is then required to send the claim form to their insurer within 7 days of receiving the claim. The insurer is then required to accept or reject the claim within 28 days.

What benefits might you receive?

Return to work

  • Your employer must provide you with suitable duties for up to 6 months after the date of the injury.
  • You are entitled to be compensated for any loss of income from the date that you give the Notice of Injury to your employer until your claim is rejected or settled. If you are unable to return to work as a result of the injury, and the claim is accepted, you receive your pre-injury weekly earnings for the first 26 weeks (which can take into consideration secondary employment, overtime and allowances). After this period, the weekly amount is reduced.
  • If you are able to return to work on reduced hours you are also entitled to ‘top up’ compensation.

Medical treatment
You are entitled to receive compensation for medical treatment and allied health rehabilitation. You can also receive compensation for:

  • any clothing that was damaged or lost as a result of the accident
  • wages lost whilst attending treatment
  • transport costs to and from treatment
  • accommodation costs if you require accommodation.

Permanent injury
If you suffer from a permanent injury, you may be entitled to receive a lump sum compensation payment.
Common law damages
You may be able to seek common law damages if your injury occurred as a result of your employer’s negligence. There is a statutory limitation period of 3 years to file court proceedings.

Snedden Hall & Gallop can assist you

If you need to discuss your compensation entitlements as a result of your workplace injury, you should contact a lawyer promptly as strict time limits apply. Contact us on (02) 6285 8000 or by email. You can find out more about our Compensation team here.