Supporting the Construction Industry

The construction industry accounts for approximately three million jobs in the UK, constituting 10 per cent of the country’s employment. Despite the economic importance of the sector, employees often receive least support for their mental health.

What Is The Issue?

The industry has one of the highest rates of mental health issues in the UK and offers the perfect example of how differently society views physical and mental health. In construction, physical health is seen as the most important thing. There are signs everywhere reminding people to wear safety equipment. There are safety talks given on site, details of manual handling and lifting techniques to ensure no-one is injured and everyone can keep working.

But there is a piece of the health puzzle missing from all this safety talk – mental safety. In an industry rife with mental health issues, it is vital this element of health and wellbeing is addressed.

A report from the Building Engineering Services Association (ECA) found that 90 per cent of construction bosses have suffered mental health problems as a result of late payments. This can have a major impact on an entire workforce, impacting employees, their families and employers alike.  

two construction engineers review site blueprints

Mental health support is desperately needed in the construction industry

Nearly a quarter (23%) of construction workers are considering leaving the industry in the next 12 months due to poor mental health and male site workers are three times more likely to commit suicide than the average male in the UK.

It seems the main issue in the construction industry is that it is male dominated, and the perception is that men who work within the sector are ‘tough blokes’. This is a very harmful perception to hold, making it much more difficult for men who are struggling to ask for help. But here’s the thing – construction workers want that support. Recent surveys suggest that 64 per cent of construction workers want better physical and mental health and wellbeing support from their employers. There are calls from within for the industry to have a better awareness of mental health and to take action to eradicate the stigma of it.

What causes poor mental health within the construction industry?

Over 400,000 days of work were lost in 2017-18 because of poor mental health in construction, according to data from the Health & Safety Executive. This demonstrates that not only is the crisis having a significant impact on employees and their families but also on the UK economy as a whole.

Job security is one of the most significant causes of mental health problems within the industry. The nature of construction jobs means that often employees are working on short-term projects and are unsure of when their next job will come. This contributes to significant stressors for labourers, with a lack of uncertainty causing them to worry about how they will pay their next rent instalment or bill.

Unfair payment practices also contribute widely to mental health issues in the industry. Disagreements over quality or difficulties with resources can mean construction workers are left without full pay after finishing a job.

So What Can Be Done?

First we need to work on removing the general stigma surrounding mental health problems, especially within the construction industry. There have been great leaps made in removing the negative perceptions in talking about mental health over the last few years, and we’re now seeing a much greater acceptance rate. More people are seeking treatment and actually talking about their mental health as part of the general discussion. Unfortunately, this has not been as true for men and the male-dominated industries they are employed within.

73 per cent of all construction workers feel that their employers did not understand or recognise the early signs of poor mental health or offer any support.

However, with the correct company culture, mental health problems can be recognised and prevented more effectively. Employers should create a space where their team feels comfortable speaking about their mental health.

Second, employers and employees in the industry need education. They need to be able to recognise the early signs of depression, anxiety and other mental health problems within their workers and co-workers. They then need to know what support is available and how to access it. This can be done through new training initiatives, working closely with mental health support services to provide the information and resources that could save their employees lives.

And finally, employers in the construction industry need to be willing to provide real and practical support to their workers. Site workers might not feel comfortable speaking with their GP or their friends about their mental health problems, but if programmes were put in place within their company and they were encouraged to use them, they might see a better result. After all, 64 per cent of construction workers want their employers to provide more support in this area, and those employers need to sit up and listen.

Civil Engineering students on a visit to the Monsall Trail

MHPP provides your employees with the support they need

The pilot gives the construction industry the opportunity to prioritise staff mental health and wellbeing. It aims to raise awareness of mental health in the workplace and highlight the support that is available to employers and employees

The first phase of the pilot spoke with 1,900 employers in the Midlands to explore current experience of issues associated with mental health and well-being of employees in the workplace, how they deal with these and the impacts on business performance and productivity.

The University of Derby are now able to work with the construction industry across the Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Stoke and Staffordshire regions to offer support in integrating effective mental health provision. If you lead a construction business in one of these regions, we will work with you to create a ‘road map’ of support for your employees, nurturing a positive culture that develops strength in the workplace. 

Learn more about how MHPP can support you and your workforce.