Manufacturers’ Greatest Challenge: Health Risks

work health

Manufacturing Australia has struggled with a number of challenges this year and those challenges are only set to increase with the implementation of the imminent carbon tax.

Due to the high Aussie dollar, many Australian manufacturers have been forced to lay off large numbers of workers or even close up shop completely. These issues are expected to become even more prevalent under the carbon tax, with manufacturing tools and facilities rating highly in terms of their greenhouse gas emission output.

Newfound health statistics, however, are revealing what could be the sector’s greatest issue to date.

Research conducted by WorkSafe Victoria has found that those employed in manufacturing are unhealthier than white-collar workers.

The statistics have been gathered through an analysis of 40,000 voluntary WorkHealth checks in the sector that show the unhealthy state many who work in the manufacturing industry are in.

work healthAccording to the research, 32 per cent of manufacturing workers are at high risk of developing type two diabetes compared to only 18.3 per cent in professional, scientific and technical services sectors.

The risk of heart disease is nearly double in manufacturing workers, accounting for 6.1 per cent of the industry, compared to 3.1 per cent of white-collar workers.

Lifestyle factors were also included in the research, with 25.2 per cent of blue collar workers shown to smoke versus 13.6 per cent of professionals.

The major reason behind the poor health of this in this sector has been attributed to the overall evolution of manufacturing, which is now a technology-oriented sector. WorkHealth Ambassador Wayne Kyler-Thomson cites the changed workplace conditions as a reason for the ill health of workers, who are now generally less active on the job than ever before.

In order to support workers, Kyler-Thomson states that it is up to the industry and individual companies to develop strategies, much like those that have been developed for workers in office settings, to boost the health of those employed in the manufacturing industry.

 “They are really simple, cost-effective things that employers can do straight away – such as providing facilities to enable riding to work, stretch programs at the start of every shift, or longer-term health related competitions and challenges,” says Kyler-Thomson.

With manufacturing already under so much stress, without positive action developed as a result of the research, this is an industry that could face dire consequences.

By Tim Moore
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