The nature of construction work often means that is is a stressful and physically challenging industry to work in. While most would be unsurprised to learn that this demanding work takes a toll on the mental wellbeing of workers, the fact that male construction workers are three times more likely to commit suicide than the average UK male is shocking. How can the industry pull together to support its workers?
Here are some of the damning statistics:
- 1 in 4 construction workers have contemplated suicide.
- Workers are 10x more likely to die from suicide than a work related incident.
- Between 2011 and 2015, 1,419 construction workers committed suicide.
- Some 350,000 construction workers are experiencing a mental health issue at any one time.
According to the Centre for Mental Health, 91 million days are lost each year due to mental health issues at a cost to employers of £26 billion per year which equates to £1035 per UK employee. In the construction sector, around 1 in 6 workers (250,000) experience depression, anxiety or stress. Positive steps need to be taken by the industry, at every level, to ensure that there are simple ways for construction workers to self-refer to occupational health services or to in-house counselling teams. The simple solution of having a person to talk to could make a significant difference when someone starts suffering with the early stages of mental health issues.
Through our experience with technology, we can speak with authority on how future technology can be adopted by contractors to address these issues, through access and attendance monitoring for example. These systems are typically employed to simply monitor entrance to and exit from a site but they could be enhanced to provide feedback to site managers, flagging when site workers have worked excessively long hours or when productivity versus hours is dipping. This information could also be pushed out to individual workers through tablets, mobile apps or other devices, giving them the knowledge required to start discussions with managers, counsellors or even just with other colleagues.
There are examples of businesses that monitor and report to the benefit of the workforce, helping to identify potential problems before they manifest. Some organisations monitor the complete working day of its staff, including travel to and from work as well as the hours worked on site. With this simple knowledge, an employer is able to more accurately assess a worker’s capability for performing particularly difficult or risky tasks.
It is clear that the whole industry needs to be involved in overcoming the challenge of reducing mental health in construction. With pro-active reporting on fatigue and onsite incidents, and the proper private and secure support platforms, advancements in technology could have significant benefits in the identification and support of those in-need.