Workers in the construction industry are at a significantly greater risk of health problems than workers in other industries.
These risks can lead to:
- development of chronic diseases
- increased rates of injury
- psychological distress.
There are a number of healthy lifestyle behaviours that can help to prevent illness or injury, such as:
- good nutrition
- maintaining fitness, strength and mobility
- getting a sufficient amount of sleep
- limiting intake of alcohol and other substances.
A range of environmental factors on a typical construction worksite can be barriers for workers to achieve a healthy lifestyle. For example, long work days, regular travel between worksites and limited on-site facilities (e.g. a kitchen and/or healthy food) are common barriers for construction workers in maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet.
The key factor in improving health outcomes is to consult and collaborate with workers to identify solutions to health barriers. Workplaces should aim to implement programs and services that ensure all workers can get involved, access support and make changes to their lifestyle.
A number of construction companies have introduced programs to respond to these barriers and lead to positive outcomes for workers and the wider construction industry.
'Your Health, Your Future' program and Fat Free Fridays – BERT/Baulderstone
The Your Health, Your Future program was implemented through a collaborative partnership between the Building Employee's Redundancy Trust (BERT), Baulderstone, construction unions and subcontractors.
The program was delivered across six months during construction of the Gatton Correctional Centre. It aimed to offer a health and wellbeing program tailored for construction workers. Initiatives included voluntary participation in health checks, individualised feedback and referral, monthly educational talks and seminars and promotion of 'Fat Free Fridays', which offered workers free healthy meals at the onsite canteen.
Evaluation of the program demonstrated the following positive outcomes:
- 5–15% overall improvement in waist circumference, total cholesterol, blood glucose, physical activity levels and alcohol consumption
- 25–35% overall reduction in blood pressure and nutrition scores
- at the six month review, the group achieved a total weight loss of 111.90kg with an average loss of 3.6kg per worker.
Bussta Gut Challenge – Builders Labourers Federation
The Bussta Gut Challenge was an initiative piloted by the Builders Labourers Federation with support from BUSS(Q) Superannuation Fund, aimed at improving the health of construction workers by increasing awareness of chronic disease risk factors.
Launched in March 2011 and conducted over nine months, the program provided 100 workers with health checks and regular ongoing education and coaching on healthy lifestyle topics.
Interest in the initiative was overwhelmingly positive. Participants lost a total of 178 kilograms and over 300 centimetres of waist circumference over the course of the program.
- To talk to someone about how you can support workers in your organisation to achieve a healthy lifestyle, including access to support tools and resources, contact the WHS Infoline on 1300 362 128.