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Shining the spotlight on mental health in construction - Part 1

Tags: Mental Health, Construction & Property, blog

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Following our series of nationwide mental health awareness workshops throughout the UK, we conducted a survey of employees and employers to determine the state of mental health within multiple industry sectors. According to our findings, construction currently has the highest prevalence rate of poor mental health cases in comparison to other industries.

In part one of our Mental Health in Construction series, we take a close look at the results of our survey, and analyse the workplace risks that arise as a result of poor mental health among employees.

Construction demonstrates high rate of mental health problems

According to our Mental Health in the Workplace survey, 60 percent of construction workers have experienced a mental health condition, and 67 percent of them attributed their problems to work. A staggering 83 percent of respondents said that they would be concerned about reporting their mental health conditions at work, while just 21 percent had communicated their mental health problem to their manager.

When asked why workers may be reluctant to communicate mental health problems, many respondents cited the negative stereotypes associated with mental health within the industry. One response read: “In a male dominated industry, where many are expected to embody the stereotypical concept of masculinity, there is clearly a stigma associated with having mental health problems, and this results in the fear of potentially being dismissed or ‘laid off’ by management.”

Overall, our study showed that there was a substantial number of poorly handled mental health cases within the construction industry. Out of all the respondents who had reported their mental health concerns to their managers, only 12 percent agreed their cases were appropriately managed, with just 38 percent of those having approved of the reasonable adjustments thereafter.

The risks involved with poor mental health in construction

Poor mental health among construction workers has been shown to present financial costs not only to employers, but also to the country’s wider economy. Research by the UK’s National Building Specifications shows that mental health issues account for employees taking nearly 70 million sick days per year, resulting in an annual cost of between £70 billion and £100 billion to the UK’s economy.

But perhaps more alarming than the financial costs, is the negative health and safety implications brought about by unacknowledged and untreated cases of poor mental health amongst employees. Construction workers who ignore their mental health and refuse to take sick days increase their risk of making mistakes on the job, which are likely to result in costly repeat work or severe accidents thereafter.

The Construction Financial Management Association cautions that employees who continue working when they should be taking time off to focus on their mental health exhibit behaviours and actions that may not only prove detrimental to your employees, but also to profitability of the wider business. These include legal and illicit substances abuse affecting workplace performance, quality defects leading to waste and rework on projects which impacts profit margins and near hits accidents, incidents and injuries affecting safety and risk performance metrics.

According to recent figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), there were 43 fatal injuries to workers in construction between 2015 and 2016. Currently, the industry accounts for 27 percent of fatal accidents to employees, and 10 percent of all major injuries that occur each year. Disturbing statistics from The Construction Industry Helpline show that individuals who work in construction are more likely to die from suicide than a fall from height.

For these reasons, it is vitally important for site managers to be aware of the warning signs, and implement measures to address and remedy cases of poor mental health which may arise within their teams. Stay tuned for part two, where we uncover various stress and depression triggers within the industry, and the warning signs to look out for.

Read on to find out what triggers poor mental health in construction workers.

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