Mental Health in Construction
- Date: Friday 16th June 2017
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It is good to see the recent focusing of attention on mental health in the workplace particularly in industries such as construction, where there can be a prevalence of old fashioned, suffer in silence attitudes. Suicide kills far more construction workers than falls from height or any type of accident in the workplace. Mental health is as important, if not more important, than all the other day to day health and safety issues employers within the industry must manage.
A recent survey by the Institute of directors has revealed that 54% of employers surveyed have been approached by members of staff suffering mental ill health. 98% of employers said they thought that good mental health was vital for the performance of their organisation but just 14% had a mental health policy in place. This shows that although awareness of mental health issues in the workplace is rising, there is a large amount of work to do.
Outside influences which are beyond the employers control often contribute to mental health problems in the workplace. The most common examples are: relationship breakdown, addiction, debt problems and bereavement. In the past, some employers have seen these problems as beyond their influence and therefore not to be considered. If employers wish to ensure the wellbeing of their employees, a reasonable level of support for those suffering problems outside of work needs to be provided. At the very least, employers need to ensure that they do not become part of the problem. Pressures at work during difficult times will often contribute to the ill health of an employee who, under normal circumstances, would cope or even thrive.
According to the IPD, poor mental health costs the UK some 5% of GDP which represents a huge burden on the economy which we, as a nation, would be best served by addressing with uncertain times ahead. Construction Industry leaders need to focus attention on awareness particularly among line managers and providing support for their employees and sub-contractors. An open culture where there is no stigma attached to openly discussing and managing mental health problems in the work place is needed.
Within the workplace, issues such as: downsizing, mergers, high workloads and unreasonable targets can all be detrimental to the mental health of those working within an organisation. During times of change it is important to manage the impact on employees to avoid creating a worried workforce and a stressful workplace. There is a strong business case for investing in employees and mental health as the aforementioned problems are strongly linked to poor productivity, low morale, high staff turnover and poor mental health.
Mates in Mind is a recent initiative launched by the Health in Construction Leadership Group with the support of the British Safety Council. It is a charity set up to provide information and support for construction workers and employers on mental health issues in construction. For further information visit: www.matesinmind.org.
Construction industry helpline:
Call 0345 605 1956
Source: Paul Browne, SSG