Electricians are often asked why they take jobs that don’t pay well.
But the truth is they’re often paid poorly.
According to a survey by the Australian Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (AiOHSS), about 15 per cent of all jobs in Australia are filled by people with no previous experience or experience that doesn’t match the type of experience the job requires.
In 2016, about 70 per cent (1.3 million) of all Australian workers had experienced some kind of injury, including serious injury, while on the job.
“There’s a lot of evidence from people working in retail, restaurant, health and retail that people with previous injury are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed than people with less experience,” says AiOHSS spokesperson Claire Robinson.
“We’ve got to do more to get more people into the industry.”
It’s a challenge for young workers who are often expected to work long hours, are vulnerable to physical injury and suffer chronic illnesses, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
But it’s also a challenge facing older workers, who are frequently required to carry out long shifts that are typically not suited to their skills.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) annual injury survey found that more than half of all industrial workers aged 65 and over were not in good health, had been involved in occupational accidents and were in the lowest socioeconomic bracket.
“They are more at risk for occupational injuries than other workers, because they’re at the lower end of the income distribution,” says Dr Robinson.
Dr Robinson says there are other factors that could be contributing to the high number of injuries.
For instance, the age of the workers is a significant factor in whether they will need a disability benefit or if they will qualify for other payments, such as child benefit or pension.
“The problem is, there’s not a lot you can do,” she says.
“Most employers are very cautious in how they look at injuries.
They say they don’t do a good enough job of screening, but that’s not the case.
It’s just the job that’s being done that’s at risk.”
In recent years, there has been a rise in cases of workers being exposed to the toxic fumes of power stations.
“That has definitely been the biggest factor in recent years,” says Robinson.
The health and safety of the industry is an ongoing concern for workers and employers alike.
For some, this is also a time when they need to make sure their safety record is maintained.
“I’ve got my safety belt on all the time, but if something were to happen to me I wouldn’t want to take my safety off,” says Pauline.
“In the future, I’m going to have to wear it around my neck.
It won’t be as comfortable as when I used to.”