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The Importance of Mental Health and Well-Being in the Construction Industry - Safe + Sound Week

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

Construction is not for everyone, it's a demanding industry and stressful environment. Long hours, tight deadlines, and dangerous working conditions can take a toll on workers' mental health. #SafeAndSoundAtWork #Safety #PositiveMentalAttitude

In fact, a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that construction workers are more likely to experience mental health problems than workers in other industries.

There are a number of reasons why construction workers are at risk for mental health problems. These include:

  • Long hours: Construction workers often work long hours, which can lead to fatigue and burnout.

  • Tight deadlines: Construction projects are often subject to tight deadlines, which can add to stress levels.

  • Dangerous working conditions: Construction workers are exposed to a number of hazards, such as falls, injuries from machinery, and exposure to toxic chemicals.

  • Lack of support: Construction workers may not have access to the same level of support as workers in other industries. This can make it difficult for them to cope with stress and mental health problems.

Think of a time when a co-worker was having an "off day" .. maybe they were suddenly short-tempered when they're usually calm and collected; or maybe someone was being very quiet and to themselves, even though they're usually the 'class clown' of the group.

Did anyone ask 'hey are you alright today'? Did you find out afterwards they were going through a difficult time outside of work? "Sharing your feelings" isn't the most common suggestion from a construction colleague, but maybe it should be.

There are a lot of clues that someone is experiencing depression or going through a difficult situation in life, which can include but are certainly not limited to:

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable.

    • someone might act like they're ok, but show signs of sadness when nobody's looking

  • Changes in appetite, weight loss or gain.

    • not meeting at the bar or attending get-togethers like they used to, making excuses to not participate

  • Slowed thinking, speaking, or movements.

    • substance abuse can be a way for people to self-medicate; this is especially dangerous in the Construction industry and sadly also prevalent.

  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.

    • being over-critical of themselves or their work;

  • Thoughts of death or suicide.

    • even making jokes about 'wanting to die' can be a major clue that someone is thinking about suicide.

*HELP IS AVAILBLE* call 988 or text 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline it is a FREE Service where anyone can reach out and discuss issues in their life without judgement or fear of exposure.

In the office and on the jobsite, there are several things that can be done to improve the overall mental health and well-being of ourselves and our workers in the construction industry.

  • Creating a supportive workplace culture: This means creating an environment where workers feel comfortable talking about their mental health and where they are not afraid to ask for help. This can seem difficult in the Construction industry, but remembering that we are all just humans and treating everyone as such is a great step towards a positive environment.

  • Providing resources to workers: This includes providing information about mental health, providing access to mental health professionals, and providing support groups. Share this blog post!

  • Taking breaks throughout the day: Taking breaks throughout the day can help workers to recharge and to avoid burnout. It may seem counter-intuitive, but taking breaks can keep workers productive.

  • Getting enough sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential for both physical and mental health. This is why, for example, truck drivers are required take breaks and to Log their hours driven and log their breaks.

  • Eating a healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet can help to improve mood and energy levels. This can be very difficult at work.

  • Exercise regularly: Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and to improve mental health. It can also feel like "I work out at work all day, why bother" but if you aren't seeing results in your stress levels or mood, a short jog or light cardio might be a great boost!

  • Seeking help if needed: If a worker is struggling with their mental health, it is important to seek help. There are many resources available to help workers, including their employer, their doctor, and mental health professionals.

By thinking of everyone as only human, by keeping these things in mind in our interactions throughout the day, we can help to create a healthier and more productive construction industry through positive mental health initiatives.

This article was inspired by OSHA's SAFE + SOUND WEEK [Aug 7 - Aug 13] - Are you ready to TAKE THE PLEDGE?

JOIN US on MONDAY AUGUST 7th at 7am As we Kick-Off SAFE + SOUND WEEK with a focused discussion Discussing Mental Health on the Job - a brief but detailed look at WHY worker's emotions matter (hint: we're all people!) WHAT mental health issues look like on site (hint: everyone goes through something sometime) and HOW to integrate positive mental health into your work. Hosted Approx 45 minutes. by Melissa Purdy, Authorized OSHA Construction Industry Outreach trainer and longtime Geotechnical Project Manager.

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