Protecting Mental Health in the Construction Industry

Some of the leading causes of death in the construction industry are falls and electrocution. But a lesser-known leading cause is suicide. In fact, the industry has one of the highest suicide rates compared to other industries — in 2016, the suicide rate for men was 49.4/100,000, which is almost twice the total suicide rate for civilian working men in 32 states. Research is still needed to know why exactly this is the case. However, possible factors include the job strain and long work hours associated with construction.

There are already institutions that are ready to support the industry and give direct help to construction workers in need. But there are a few things you can also do inside your company to protect your workers’ mental health. Below are some of them:

Make the workplace a safe space

Mental health and the workplace are closely related — unhealthy working conditions will affect an employee’s mental health. This can change their attitude and behavior, which will also affect their work and relationships with their coworkers, adding to the negative atmosphere. As such, it’s important to create a healthy work environment in the first place. Some things you can do are give stress management training for high-risk jobs, improve senior leadership engagement, and perform regular well-being checks. It would also be a good idea to openly discuss mental health in the workplace to show workers that they can ask for support if they need it. You should have zero tolerance for bullying as well.

Watch out for warning signs

The construction industry has many occupational hazards — from collapsing trenches causing serious injuries and death, to the prolonged use of handheld power tools that can cause hand-arm vibration syndrome — so it’s natural to pay attention to decreasing the risk of physical injury. However, other workplace-related health conditions can also include psychological injuries. Some factors that can negatively affect a worker’s mental health are workplace conflict and bullying. Psychological injuries are harder to spot than physical injuries, but it becomes easier with time. Some warning signs include a decrease in productivity, tardiness, isolation from coworkers, and an increase in conflict with coworkers. Once you notice these signs in a worker, you should immediately respond to them to prevent the situation from getting worse.

Provide resources

The stigma around mental health can make it difficult for people to seek help. Because of this, it would be a good move to provide everyone with resources and tools to manage mental health. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a list of resources, which includes how to start a conversation on mental health in the industry and tips for dealing with stress. You can also include counseling and other mental health services in your employees’ benefits package. Alongside this, offering mental health days or flexible work hours makes it easier for them to attend therapy or medical appointments.

Offer first-aid training for mental health

It’s also important to train team leaders and workers to spot warning signs and offer the right kind of help. AT RK, mental health training is offered to the human resources and safety staff, which teaches its professionals how to assess the risk of harm, listen with no judgment, give reassurance, and encourage colleagues to seek professional help and support strategies.

Article written by Robbie Joanne

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