Stress, burnout behind exodus from construction sector
Over half (52%) of Australian construction leaders have reported losing skilled workers due to higher levels of stress and burnout, according to research released by construction management software provider Procore Technologies. According to the research, work health and safety (WH&S) remains a top priority and the industry has increased investment in technology and data to reduce risk and improve safety outcomes.
Conducted in September 2022 by ACA Research, the survey of 155 construction leaders across Australia found that WH&S is a higher priority (46%) than sustainability goals such as reducing energy consumption (40%) and diversity & inclusion goals (25%). This is reflected in an increase in the number of construction businesses with a WH&S policy, rising from 71% when Procore last surveyed the industry on safety in 2021, to 77% in 2022.
Following the release of the National Skills Commission’s 2022 Skills Priority List, which revealed that construction managers are the fourth highest skill set in demand (with 4984 vacancies across Australia), 48% of the respondents to Procore’s poll admitted that they can’t hire enough skilled labour to fully staff their jobsites. Respondents acknowledged the mental health impact of the skills shortage on their workforce, both onsite and in the office, reporting an increase in WH&S incidents including emotional wellbeing cases. 52% of the respondents agreed to the industry needs to improve the way injured workers are supported with their mental health. Over the past 12 months, the industry has adopted more mental health related policies, with 54% of construction businesses stating that they have invested in more mental health resources to support staff.
According to the research, 54% of respondents now have a mental health strategy (up from 36% in 2021), 47% of respondents now have a stress and burnout management strategy (up from 34% in 2021), and 41% of respondents now have a working time reduction policy (up from 28% in 2021). While construction leaders are improving efforts to support the mental health and wellbeing of workers, 49% of the businesses surveyed conduct safety training at key moments or regular intervals — a figure that has remained unchanged over the past 12 months.
The Australian construction industry is continuing to turn to technology-based solutions to improve safety and supplement existing approaches, such as site inductions and training. In the past year, there has been a significant increase in how construction companies leverage technology and analyse data to identify and predict potential risks; this spike is likely to have been prompted by the wave of digitisation that was prevalent during the pandemic.
The research found that 34% of respondents had a dedicated solution to manage safety (up from 24% in 2021), 51% have invested in improved systems and processes to capture site safety data (up from 29% in 2021), and 47% have invested in the integration of data from multiple systems/sources into a single repository (up from 2% in 2021). Additionally, 63% of construction businesses are now analysing data to identify and predict potential risks (up from 30% in 2021).
The survey also found that 53% of the Australian construction businesses polled had experienced improved safety outcomes, while 50% had reduced risk as a result of leveraging data. Larger businesses (with 100+ employees) achieved a greater impact from utilising their data, with 82% experiencing improved safety outcomes and 74% experiencing reduced risk.
Tom Karemacher, Vice President (APAC) of Procore, said that although the construction industry faced a multitude of challenges over the last couple of years, it remains resilient and resourceful. “With the labour shortage currently impacting the industry, it’s great to see companies prioritising worker health and safety while utilising technology to support workers by reducing risk and improving safety in the workplace,” Karemacher said.
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