Building a mentally healthy construction industry

National Media

Monday, 08 July, 2024

Building a mentally healthy construction industry

The Australian construction industry has the highest rate of depression and death by suicide.

In addition, the industry is fraught with challenges, including rising operational costs and labour shortages. Reports indicate that over 2300 construction firms have collapsed in the last year, crippled by financial troubles.

The Australian Building And Construction Industry’s Blueprint For Better Mental Health And Suicide Prevention 2018–2022 reported that between 2001 and 2015, a staggering 3000 construction workers died by suicide. It also notes the World Health Organisation’s findings, that for every person who dies by suicide, another 10 to 20 individuals will attempt suicide, leaving many with lasting injuries or disabilities.

The Black Dog Institute’s survey of construction workers found that one in four workers has symptoms of depression and/or anxiety, thanks to the high demands of the job. In addition, workers frequently feel a lack of job control, leading them to feel depleted, stressed and burnt out. The survey also found that 25% of workers who needed mental health support never accessed it.

MATES in Construction reports that every second day, a construction worker dies of suicide. Apprentices and younger workers, in particular, are more likely to take their lives.

“The research makes it clear that in male-dominated industries, workers are less likely to seek out help or talk about their feelings. The construction industry is Australia’s most male-dominated industry — almost 90% of its workers are men. The implementation of mental health training and support programs is absolutely critical in this sector,” said Stephen Blackie, Portfolio Director of National Media, which organises the Workplace Health & Safety Show.

Blackie said the recent passing of new manslaughter laws in NSW could also see construction companies held liable in the event of death of workers.

“Worker safety and wellbeing is a priority concern for construction companies, particularly at a time when the sector is facing significant market challenges and legislative changes,” he said.

“If found liable of negligence, business owners could be slapped with penalties of up to $20 million in fines or prison sentences of up to 25 years.

“This is why the Workplace Health & Safety Show features a dedicated Construction Health and Safety Summit, where experts explore the unique safety and wellbeing challenges facing the sector and guide audiences towards practical and actionable initiatives they can implement on their construction sites.”

He said the most recent Workplace Health & Safety Show in Melbourne indicated a larger percentage (18%) of the visitors were from the construction industry — the largest sector in attendance at the show by far. With this in mind, the expo and the Construction Health and Safety Summit present excellent exposure opportunities for companies who service this industry, as well as companies who want to attend the free expo and seminars to learn more about the latest changes and services for the industry.

Registration for the Sydney Construction Health and Safety Summit in October is free, and presentation sessions will unpack everything from psychosocial risks to silica dust management, as well as new AI and other technology innovations that help to improve worker safety.

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