Staying sane in a stressful industry


Over the past few months, construction firms are waking up to the fact that their sector, with all its associated stressors and challenges, is having a devastating impact upon many operatives. Anyone who has spent time in delivering construction projects recognises that the ongoing pitfalls, issues, barriers and banter can often leave workers feeling jaded long before the final structure is complete.

The construction industry is inherently challenging, with vast amounts of compliance, regulatory issues, health and safety to navigate. Put this alongside tight deadlines, frequent objections by stakeholders, pressure from commissioners and an irate public, and the job can at times seem intolerable.

A growing issue with increasing pressure

Recent innovations in the industry have meant that many traditional obstacles to construction have been overcome – for example, new equipment and technologies have made considerable progress in enhancing safety. However, these obstacles being removed has in a way actively increased pressure on construction teams, through expectations of expedited completion adding to the pressure for teams to do more, more quickly.

Data evidencing the scale of the problem

According to Office of National Statistics data, 6% of the UK’s workforce currently suffer with debilitating anxiety and depression, which equates to around 350,000 construction workers who are currently affected by these challenges. A 2006 CIOB report indicates that 70% of workers in the sector suffered with anxiety, stress of depression as a direct result of their occupation. According to industry insight, of the construction workforce in males between 15 and 49, suicide is now the leading cause of death.

This is significant. Mental health is often considered to be a taboo subject, particularly in industries which are predominantly male-dominated, and emotional and mental wellbeing are often considered secondary to visible physical ailments which are attributable to accidents and work-related hazards. However. As the industry continues to evolve, there is an argument that outdated views on health, safety and wellbeing need significant revision to evolve accordingly, reflecting the growing need to consider mental wellbeing and emotional health alongside more visible issues.

Sector change acknowledging a growing problem

The good news is, the sector overall is listening and working to address the issues apparent within the construction industry. Despite the challenges to be navigated in terms of provision of support – such as joint ventures and frameworks, where staff may not benefit from consistent management – many organisations have now amended their support structures to provide additional assistance.

The British Safety Council’s new ‘Mates in Mind’ programme is raising awareness and increasing positive mental health for the industry, and key construction firms including Careys, Willmott Dixon and Balfour Beatty have all signed up. Training, signposting to support and growing awareness are leading the way for transformation in the sector.

For support and additional resources, please visit the MHFAE website, here.

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