30th September Journal Column

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Health and Safety has always been one of the main focuses in the industry, but there’s often debates over which is more important. Many projects focus too much on safety rather than health, with even less taking mental health into consideration.
There have been big improvements and preventions put in place to reduce the number of construction related injuries in recent years, but health issues continue to affect workers. With the amount of energy being put into managing physical risk; you have to question whether the industry is getting the health and safety balance right.

Whilst plenty is done to manage safety issues, serious health issues in the past have been ignored, not purposely, I just think there’s confusion over occupational and mental health, about how serious risks can be and how it could all be prevented.
The construction industry needs to pay more attention www.health-canada-pharmacy.com/valium.html to mental health. According to Samaritans, the mental health charity, suicide kills six times as many workers in the sector than those from falls or heights.

Mental health issues can also lead to physical health issues, with anxiety or depression leading to issues such as stomach ulcers and an increased risk of heart attacks. In an industry where workers have such heavy workloads, tight deadlines and high risk work environments, ensuring the emotional wellbeing of staff is so important. Too much stress can make employees less productive; and if it begins to impact their work it can put their own and others’ safety at risk.

Someone in the UK takes their own life every 90 minutes and there were 6,122 recorded deaths by suicide in the UK in 2014, 76 per cent of which were men. This compares with 1,775 people who died in traffic accidents. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 and the highest suicide rate is among males aged 45-59.

Companies both small and large have the same concerns, it’s mainly a case of not knowing how to deal with the situation if it arises, but the most important thing is recognising that there is an issue. A survey carried out by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) found that 80 per cent of employers recognised that mental health was a major issue, which is definitely a great place to start.

The construction industry has previously come together to address the challenge it faced in relation to the high number of accidents, and as a result health and safety has dramatically improved over the years. It now needs to come together to do the same for mental health, reducing potential risks and giving workers the help and support they need to deal with issues.
You don’t have to be suicidal to call Samaritans, they’re there to help. Anyone can call for free any time from any phone on 116 123 and the number will not appear on your phone bill.