7th July 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. There are many physical risks that come with working in the industry, so there has always been more of a focus on safety, but we must remember that the health of our workforce and mental health is just as important and isn’t something that can be forgotten.

Some shocking statistics are available for the sector.

  • Statistics from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that the risk of suicide among low-skilled labourers and those working in the industry, is 3.7 times higher than the male national average.
  • Every year 400 construction workers commit suicide, that’s more than one a day.
  • Stress, depression or anxiety accounts for a fifth of all work-related illness, and that’s just the reported figure. Many people don’t want this detailed on their employment records for fear it could impact their future careers.

The impression of our industry is that it is dirty and dangerous, but we can work towards changing that image by making workplaces safer, happier and healthier. It’s important that those at the top of the supply chain or in managerial roles understand the importance of talking about mental health and that attitude is filtered down to employees and smaller companies that are often harder to reach.

Working Well Together, an industry/Health and Safety Executive initiative, are holding an event in Durham, aimed at managers and supervisors. The event will highlight the most important health issues specific to the industry, with a presentation dedicated to mental health – this is exactly the type of event that we need and we need even more of them.  I’m under no impression that things will change overnight, but every small step forward is a step in the right direction.

Here, at Constructing Excellence, we do lots to help improve the health, safety and wellbeing of workers in the industry. This year we supported The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity at our Constructing Excellence North East Awards. The charity provides financial and emotional support to the construction community and their families who have suffered an injury or long-term illness or just need some extra support.

The charity fund and manage a 24/7 Construction Industry Helpline which is the first point of contact for those who need free and confidential support services. Companies that sign up to the Company Supporters Programme will receive a Helpline Pack containing wallet sized contact cards for the helpline and posters to help direct employees and contractors towards extra support. 

The charity receives no public funding and relies on the generosity of those within in the industry, which is why we’re more than happy to be supporting them again at our charity golf day on September 21. 

If anything you have read strikes a chord either for yourself or your workforce, there is help available; please use it. 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. Alternatively, call the Construction Industry Helpline on 0345 605 1956 or get practical online advice and training for your workforce at www.matesinmind.org.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.