Health and Safety Goes Mental in the Construction Industry

Health and Safety Goes Mental in the Construction Industry

30th November 2016

All of us who work within the construction industry know that health and safety is a vitally important issue – after all, we’re working in one of the most dangerous sectors there is, despite the stringent health and safety legislation that’s designed to minimise risks and reduce accidents in the workplace.  However, health and safety is not just about avoiding incidents and accidents – that’s the safety part of things.  Health is not only about having a healthy body that can withstand the rigours of work that is often manual, tough and demands stamina on a daily basis.  Health is also about having a healthy mind and there’s a new drive to ensure that mental health problems are taken seriously.

Toughness and strength are at the heart of our culture within the industry – it’s what enables us to meet the challenge of doing a good job under all sorts of harsh conditions.  However, the flipside of this type of toughness is that it tends to discourage people from talking about their feelings as that’s often seen as a sign of weakness.  When we’re having a bad day, we tend to want to zip our lips and just hope that nobody notices.  This needs to change and we need to find innovative new ways of being strong.

Statistics show that construction workers are six times more likely to die as a result of suicide than they are by falling from a height!  Those figures are pretty shocking!  Working in construction can be stressful – the industry itself is changing and there are no more jobs for life.  We often have to work away from home on projects in other parts of the country (or even in other parts of the world).  We’re under pressure all the time to get things done within deadline and budget and to a high quality, which can be a huge ask in some circumstances. 

The construction industry has created a safety culture second to none, which is clear from the statistics that show a steady reduction in the rate of accidents and injuries over recent years.  However, this is not quite enough – there’s more to be done when it comes to health and safety and it’s now time to focus on mental health within the industry.

There’s a new initiative in the shape of the Time to Change Employer Pledge which employers and business owners can sign as a demonstration of their commitment to change how we think and act about mental health in the workplace and ensure that every employee facing problems is supported.   The goal is a shift in attitudes which would lead to the discussion of mental health being seen as a strength rather than a weakness, with the aim of getting more people feeling comfortable talking about how they feel. 

In the construction industry, we all depend on each other to work as a team and get the job done – this is a group of people looking out for each other.  We now need to look out for each other when it comes to mental health issues and start talking about how we feel as well as what we do.

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