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Just 9 days ago was World Suicide Prevention Day and we would like to pay reference to this in today’s blog. Whilst the subject isn’t cheerful, it should be spoken about more often to provide awareness. In particular we are going to look at suicide in the construction area.

Working Away From Home

Many construction workers are contracted away from home. This could be within the UK and sometimes even globally. This is one aspect of the industry that can potentially cause strain on an individual’s mental health as they are separated from loved ones. Close family and friends are at a distance and whilst they can be reached by phone or online, it’s never quite the same. This can in some instances evoke feelings of loneliness leading onto damaging behaviours. To ease the boredom, workers may begin drinking or even gambling excessively. This then adds to problems including further pressure towards mental health.

Good Management Practices

In order to both alleviate and prevent the impact to mental health, construction managers should adopt certain methods:

  • Using the same sub-contractors across different projects allows familiarity. When working with the same team, not only will professional relationships strengthen, friendships are likely to form.
  • Taking time out to pause and drink a coffee with contractors puts both the manager and team member onto an even footing. Yes there is a necessary hierarchy but a task as small as this builds trust and respect.
  • Managing client expectations is an intrinsic factor for senior staff. If not handled with due care and attention, the overriding pressure filters through to construction workers. Unachievable timescales and the worry over finances adds to a deterioration in mental health.
  • Adhere to and even go beyond the realms associated with the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015.The regulations were determined in order for the provision of a low stress working environment to be mandatory.

Trust Your Construction Workers

In using the same workers for numerous projects, as a manager you are more likely to build trust and confidence in individuals. As we know, rules and regulations of a construction site are strict, requiring each and every team member to abide by them to the letter. A manager should ensure everything is in place in the first instance to prevent possible breaches. This will have a direct knock on effect to the ‘blame the workers’ culture. Should a site rule be broken, a person could be removed for a day, a week or even permanently. To have this threat hanging over you when the foundations for rules aren’t in place will again, impact mental health.

How Can we Move Forwards?

Ideally, those working in Health and Safety for construction require a wider understanding of commercial practices. If they also had the ability to influence these, consideration for mental health could almost certainly be highlighted.

Promotion of campaigns such as Mind Matters will help raise awareness. The more these subjects are spoken about in a typically labelled ‘macho’ environment such as construction, the more accepted they become. Mates in Mind is a fantastic UK charity promoting positive mental well being across the workplace.

In getting the basics right such as ‘allowing’ mental health to be discussed in a construction based environment is the best place to start. Get this right and we can certainly help towards suicide prevention.

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