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Mental health - a continuing challenge for the construction industry

Two construction workers facing each other on site, taken from an iHASCO training course

The construction industry is very familiar with managing health and safety risks of it’s employees, to ensure they remain safe and productive at work. Working from height, asbestos, noise and moving objects are just some of the everyday risks facing construction workers. Yet after the emergence of COVID-19, construction companies (along with every other industry) were required to put in place COVID-Secure measures to keep their sites in operation, whilst minimising the risk of spreading and catching COVID-19. This added another complex dimension to the health and safety of those working in the sector, but also fuelled the existing challenges of staff absences and mental health. 

Despite the current lockdown, construction work can take place according to the government guidelines - if it is COVID-Secure. There is a call for further clarity from the government as many construction workers are concerned for their safety due to the risk of infection from COVID-19, not only during their commute but on site. With employees fearing illness, job losses and not being able to provide for their families, the strain felt by workers is inevitable. 

Research shows that workplace absences in construction as a result of mental ill-health have increased over the last 5 years, which in part could be down to a greater mental health awareness in the industry. Whilst some progress has been made, the Coronavirus pandemic presents an ideal opportunity for the construction industry to further address mental health and wellbeing among its workforce. The CIOB 2020 report found that pre-COVID, 26% of those working in the construction industry had thought about taking their own lives. The current climate is likely to exacerbate mental health conditions and employers should be looking to tackle the issue before employees reach crisis point.

Our friends at SMAS have highlighted some further shocking statistics about mental health in construction:

· Suicide kills more construction workers than falls every year.
· Depression and anxiety have overtaken musculoskeletal disorders in construction workers.
· According to the Office of National Statistics, there were 13,232 in-work suicides between 2011 and 2015. The construction industry accounted for 13.2%
of them, despite only accounting for 7% of the total UK workforce.
· 23% of construction workers are considering leaving the industry in the next 12 months due to poor mental health.
· 73% of all construction workers feel that their employers did not understand or recognise the early signs of poor mental health or offer any support.

SMAS Worksafe, Mental health in construction article

Making employee wellbeing a priority…

Mental health and wellbeing is a huge concern for the sector, and the impact of COVID-19 is going to have an even further effect on an already existing mental health crisis. Checking in on employees, looking out for signs of depression and offering support is going to be vital. Employers can start by offering mental health awareness training to take positive steps towards ensuring their workforce feel supported, particularly in the current climate.

Our online Mental Health in Construction Training course is a great way to offer your employees some support and build a culture where employee wellbeing is taken seriously. Employees will also gain the tools to look after their mental health on a daily basis and learn where to go for external help should they need it. This tailored training also helps address the stigma surrounding mental health, highlighting that speaking out when you are not ok is perfectly acceptable in this male dominated industry. This 40 minute online course could help make a genuine difference to your workforce.

Start a no obligation free trial and get limited access to our full course library and see how online training can help your employees.

Make sure if anyone is showing signs of anxiety, depression or stress on-site that you’re open with them and ask if everyone is ok or what the issue may be, although this can be difficult in the construction industry due to the nature and environment that those work in.
Another good option that could be worth your time is to set up an employee assistance programme (EAP) where employees are able to talk to someone about the issues they may be facing anonymously and making sure staff are aware of the EAP system and how to go about speaking to someone.

SMAS Ltd
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