What can be done to improve mental health and safety in construction

Health and safety Ellis Fox blog

In the past year there have been an alarmingly high rate of health and safety incidents on construction sites. From fatal and life altering accident to an increasing number of suicides in the industry, it’s cause for concern. There’s no debate that current economic times are stressful and employees are feeling the pressure. The question is: what can companies and specifically managers do to support employees so that they don’t get to that point of desperation?

Create safe spaces

Safe spaces refer to environments where there is the freedom for employees to engage with one another. A research study conducted by the Warwick Medical School in conjunction with National Grid set up a Health Hub on a construction site. Considered a pilot project, it included a gym, social spaces, access to one-on-one sessions with a wellness coach and a canteen with free healthy meals. Some companies may consider these as gimmicks that will have little impact, yes, the findings of the study were incredibly informative.

Given this safe space in which to engage, the stigma of mental health was removed and employees felt more comfortable engaging in honest conversations with one another. Feedback included that the facility “made life easier”. This highlights that the value of creating a safe space should not be underestimated. Specifically, workers cited that not having to hide their stress from colleagues as well as being able to better balance work and home life.

Focus on site safety

There have been several reports highlighting the growing number of site accidents and the lack of site oversight. In general, there appears to be a diminishing number of site safety inspections taking place. Given the stress in workplace, it’s not hard to see how safety protocols can be overlooked and accidents can happen. Is this acceptable? Most would agree not, yet the impetus to improve site safety doesn’t always appear to be there. Is the drive to improve margins the root cause of this?

Main contractors can ill afford lawsuits and liability claims. Margins are already squeezed. Should there be a renewed focus on site safety? It may seem like something small, but remember that human resources are at the heart of any company. If their well-being is ignored, whether that well-being is mental or physical well-being it is going to impact the company. For that reason alone, it’s worth improving the situation.