How the Construction Sector Has Dealt with Mental Health in 2019
With a massive focus on mental health coming to the fore in the construction sector over the last few years, we’ve been interested to see the current situation and how employers and employees are more focused on building mental health awareness and support through the sector.
Time to Talk Day
Held on Feb 7, 2019, Time to Talk Day was initiated by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness as part of the Time for Change movement. This day was aimed at breaking down the stigma of mental health in the construction sector, a day for workers to openly chat about their feelings and understand that help is available.
HBF & Lighthouse Club Charity Campaign
The Home Builders Federation (HBF) announced a new campaign in March that aims to tackle mental health in the construction industry, specifically for those who work in the home building sector. Working alongside the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity, this campaign provides key resources and training to companies in this sector, providing support to both employees and sub-contractors.
This campaign includes retraining for workers who cannot for any reason continue or return to the original job, a confidential industry helpline and free app (Construction Industry Helpline) that is available 24/7, and support packs for managers and clear direction on the ‘Building Mental Health Framework’. Over 30 builders signed up to support the campaign when it was first announced, with over £100,000 pledged to the Lighthouse charity.
EDF Tackle Mental Health at Hinkley Point
Following a shock report in August stating that construction workers at Hinkley Point are grappling with a mental health crisis, managing company EDF are working with trade union Unite to tackle the current state of affairs.
As workers live on specially built campuses nearby and work long stretches without being able to visit their families at home, there have been increases in reports of relationship breakdowns, stresses and crises amongst workers that have led to an increase in drinking and gambling as well as workers off with stress, anxiety and depression.
To tackle this, EDF & Unite have introduced a number of measures to encourage workers to open up, including arranging 3 sessions with former boxer Frank Bruno to discuss his history with mental health and encourage workers to discuss any problems they feel they may be having. In addition, every 1 in 20 workers onsite has been trained as a mental health first aider (“mental health buddy”) and there are posters surrounding the site aimed at getting workers to “open up”. There are also 8 mental health first aiders on the site supplied by Unite who are clearly visible and available for workers to talk to.
The overall ambition from EDF is for Hinkley to become the “pathfinder for new work practices in the construction sector nationwide”.
In August the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) announced an extensive survey into mental health across the construction sector. This closed in October and was open to anyone working in the industry, across all job roes, both CIOB members and non-members.
The primary focus was on the pressures faced by those working at different levels, from site worker to director, and analysing the patterns from the responses. From this, recommendations are to be developed to help reduce any pressures identified as well as any appropriate changes to legislation. The full results of the survey should be released by the end of 2019.
President of CIOB, Professor Charles Egbu, also released a statement in September stating that the Government must do more to tackle the construction mental health crisis. This was off the back of the figures released from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which showed that workers in the construction industry were more likely to face mental health issues than in any other sector; in essence, construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than from falling from heights.
The creation of a new charity, the Pagabo Foundation, was announced in September by Pagabo. Framework organisation Pagabo created the charity to address the subject of mental health in the construction sector, as this is seen as “taboo” and that workers need to maintain a “tough guy image” in a workforce that is still predominantly male. It is felt that not enough resources or support are available for workers across the industry, at all levels, and the Pagabo Foundation aims to change this.
Building Mental Health Second Anniversary
The Building Mental Health initiative led by the CITB saw it’s second anniversary this September. In those 2 years, this initiative has collated a lot of useful information for workers, including the Building Mental Health Framework, Tool Box Talks, downloadable videos and training courses in mental health.