Statistically, the construction industry is one of the worst in terms of workers suffering from mental health issues. There were over 828,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, depression, or anxiety in 2019/2020, which resulted in approx. 17.9 million working days lost.
In construction, there are signs all over sites reminding people to wear safety equipment, and thousands of pounds are spent on PPE each year. A large proportion of time spent in inductions is devoted to safety expectations whilst working on site. There are toolbox talks dedicated to what needs to be achieved that day and how this will be done safely so the workforce can remain working safely.
Amongst all this safety talk, however, there seems to be no mention of their mental health. Construction tends to be a male-dominated environment, and we live in a world where we’re taught that “boys don’t cry”. This kind of attitude is a damaging perception to hold and makes it so much more difficult for both men and women in this industry who are struggling with their mental health.
The Numbers Speak for Themselves
Recent surveys suggest that 64% of construction workers want better physical andmental health and wellbeing support from their employers. They recognise that they need help but aren’t getting what they need.
The statistics below from the Holistic Healthcare Group prove how staggering this problem is.
-Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45. However, male site workers are three times more likely to commit suicide than the average male in the UK.
-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.
-According to the National Building Specification, mental health accounts for people taking almost 70 million days off sick per year. This costs the UK economy an estimated £70 billion to £100 billion per year.
-In 2014, 454 construction workers committed suicide.
Supporting our Workforce
In early 2020, myself and some of my colleagues attended a course called I-Act for Positive Mental Health. The aim of the course was to recognise potential mental health issues of employees and how best to support them. They also highlighted signs to look out for.
Supporting our workers throughout each project has always been a top priority for us at PSI Global, and the course has helped us to take a further step forward in supporting the mental health of our workforce both on and off-site. As a company we carry out aftercare twice a week, checking in with each candidate to make sure they’re ok and solving any issues that arise whilst working under PSI Global.
On some of our sites, we have slowly started to introduce a service called Perkbox. Amongst several great perks, the service includes access to a 24/7 confidential support helpline, up to 4 structured counselling sessions, or access to Aura which is a mindfulness app.
Taking place on one of our sites, once COVID restrictions are more lifted, we are planning to operate an open cabin/office policy. This would allow workers to come in and sit down with our dedicated on-site account manager and discuss more complex or personal issues.
We need more of these open conversations about mental health in the construction industry, so let’s start now. Do you think there is more that could be done? Have you felt comfortable opening up about the topic on-site? Comment with any thoughts you feel comfortable sharing below.