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How Can You Protect Your Employee's Mental Health?

19-May-2020 16:04:33 / by Connor Taylor

It is no secret that mental health issues affect the construction industry more severely than comparable industries. Male site workers are three times more likely to commit suicide than their non-construction counterparts; with men making up nearly 90% of the construction workforce, this is a clear systemic issue in the industry.
Mental health issues can strike anytime. The most recent survey from the Office of National Statistics found that between 2011 and 2015, of the 13,232 in-work suicides recorded, those within the skilled construction and building trades made up 13.2% – despite construction accounting for little over seven per cent of the UK workforce. How can employers shield their workforce from this pervasive and often misunderstood health & safety risk?
Employee Mental Health-1

Systemic Issues

There are many risk factors involved in working in the construction industry, some of which are doubtless exacerbated by the current COVID-19 crisis. Long hours, and tough, physical work are commonplace among some sectors of the industry, although conditions have doubtless improved in recent decades.

Among some employers, health & safety still is not taken seriously enough, leading to added stress from fear of physical harm in the workplace. As a result of the workforce being predominantly male, issues surrounding male mental health are endemic. Reporting issues to an employer may not come naturally to many employees on site, which results in suffering in silence. How can employers help their employees to deal with these issues?


The first step in helping employees who may be suffering from mental health issues is to create a supportive and positive culture. This involves management taking proactive steps towards uncovering issues within the workforce, which employees may be reticent to report. They may feel reporting issues is a waste of time, or that they will be viewed negatively by colleagues if they do so. We have developed dedicated behavioural safety functionality on the EMEX platform to help employees improve their workplace. By enabling employees to report anonymously from their personal device any mental health or physical safety issue, management can quickly and accurately resolve previously unknown problems.


The COVID pandemic has plunged many industries into disarray, including construction. Despite the government announcing that construction may resume, many employees remain on furlough or have been made redundant. Industry unease filters down into the workforce, who may be fearing for their future, and may contribute to mental health issues. How will the recession affect their livelihoods? And when they return to work, how will they be kept safe from COVID? They may be fearing for at risk family members, or be doubtful over measures put in place to keep them safe.

It is fundamentally important that as employers concentrate on protecting the physical safety of the workforce, they don't neglect a more insidious and harder to trace health risk. By giving employees the power to report issues and concerns in a safe and, if needed, anonymous format, a culture of responsibility and kindness can be fostered.


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Topics: Industry Trends

Connor Taylor

Written by Connor Taylor

Connor is our in-house HSE research analyst. A recent graduate from the University of Cambridge, he is passionate about all things health and safety, with a focus on the data behind industry trends.