We all know the importance of workplace safety to the construction industry. Slips, trips and falls, working at height, noise protection and more mean that workers need to be well-trained, monitored and assessed to ensure their safety on the job.
What you may not know is that more than 11x as many construction workers commit suicide each year than are killed in workplace accidents. Society’s attitudes towards mental health are slowly changing, but for construction, this is an emergency that demands a swift and powerful response.
While mental health is a societal issue, construction is particularly vulnerable due to being male-dominated, and often involving long periods away from home. The ‘macho’ culture can make people feel that they will be judged for speaking out, causing them to suffer in silence.
These problems are exacerbated by the physical demands of construction. Injuries from heavy lifting, repetitive strains, loud machinery and other sources are common, and can be debilitating. It’s also not always financially stable, as shown by the recent bankruptcy and collapse of Carillion.
Even if you can hide your mental health issues, they can compromise safety by distracting people, putting everyone’s lives at risk. They also tend to lower people’s productivity, meaning there is a strong financial case for businesses to intervene, as well as a moral one.
There has to be a recognition that mental health is as important to site safety as any other established physical risk factor. The most important step to achieving this is to make it clear to workers that you take mental health seriously, and invest in solutions to improve mental health in your workforce.
There are a range of ways to achieve this. The simplest and most effective is to provide mental health awareness training, teaching people the importance of good mental health and how to support their colleagues. This alone can break the stigma around mental health, and reinforce that it is something to be open about and not to shy away from.
From top to bottom, people should feel that they will be supported, and not be penalised for seeking help. This may require training for supervisors and business owners, as well as regular toolbox talks to reiterate the importance of good mental health and communication.
The construction industry is at crisis point when it comes to mental health, but it isn’t too late to take action. What the industry needs now is for leaders to take responsibility and action rather than waiting for new legislation. By doing so, we can address the largest cause of deaths in construction – and make this a happier, healthier and more productive place to work.
At SAMS we offer remote Mental Health awareness courses therefore If anyone has any questions or would like to enquire then please contact us on: 01843821406 or email us at: [email protected]. Enquires for our Mental Health awareness courses can also be bought on our website.