Today is World Mental Health Day and an opportunity to assess how construction supports the mental health of its workers

Clive Johnson

Employers across the UK are failing to provide adequate support to employees or equip managers with the skills to help them, according to the Mental Health at Work report released last week. The report says more than three quarters (77%) of employees have experienced symptoms of poor mental health in their lives, with managers underequipped and unsupported to respond to mental health in work.

Today on World Mental Health Day, Mental Health First Aid England is calling on employers to find out how they can support the mental wellbeing of their staff. Mental Health First Aid is the mental health equivalent of a physical first aid course, teaching the skills and confidence to support a person who may be experiencing a mental health issue.

One sector committing to tackling mental ill health among employees, is the construction industry. Until now, the industry has shied from tackling the subject of employee mental health and wellbeing despite the fact that construction workers in the UK are 100 times more likely to die from an occupational illness than a workplace accident.

We want the industry to look after their workforce and to see talking about things, as a strength rather than a weakness, and to stamp out the “it’s not happening to me” mentality

The Construction Leadership Group was set up in 2015 as a direct response to research presented at the 2015 Construction Industry Advisory Committee (ConIAC). This exposed the high number of occupational health deaths in the sector and made it clear we had not been treating health as we had safety, in part due to the impact of not dealing with safety adequately brings more immediate consequences; such as fear of prosecution or serious injury.

I spoke to businesses including Crossrail, Skanska and the Construction Clients Group regarding organising a similar summit to tackle the issue head on, and the Health in Construction Leadership Group was a by-product of this summit.

The summit saw over 150 key business leaders and industry influencers in the construction sector pledge to address the growing number of occupational health deaths and debilitating or life changing health incidences. The collaborative group, comprises contractors, clients, the Health and Safety Executive, professional bodies, trade associations and trade unions.

The Health in Construction Leadership Group is committed to the vision to make construction the leading industry for occupational health and disease prevention by 2025, and achieve a cultural shift within the sector, so that health is managed like safety.

We want the industry to look after their workforce and to see talking about things, as a strength rather than a weakness, and to stamp out the “it’s not happening to me” mentality.

More recently the Health in Construction Leadership Group supported by the British Safety Council announced the launch of Mates in Mind - a sector-wide programme intended to help improve and promote positive mental health across the industry in the UK. The programme is due to be formally launched at the Health in Construction industry summit in January.

One way in which organisations can make a difference is to ensure their managers have the skillset to support the mental and emotional health of their teams through training staff in Mental Health First Aid. With this training they shoudl be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues and effectively guide a person towards the right support.

I am soon to embark on a two day training course to become a Mental Health First Aider, and I will be joined by 30 others from the Land Securities Occupational Health Customer Improvement Group, as part of the organisations strategy to raise awareness of mental health in the industry.

Clive Johnson, head of Health & Safety Group at Land Securities and chair of the Health in Construction Leadership Group

Mental health resources