Construction industry tackles suicide prevention with new initiative

Dive Brief:

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction is among the top nine occupations with the highest risk for suicide, so the Carson J. Spencer Foundation, along with RK Mechanical and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, has developed a guidebook to show construction executives how to prevent suicide and make health and safety a priority, the Engineering News-Record reported.
  • The guide, "A Construction Industry Blueprint: Suicide Prevention in the Workplace," teaches contractors to prioritize mental health in the workplace using positive messages and open discussion of sensitive topics. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death among men ages 25-54 and totals 42,000 each year.
  • Experts have said that construction workers, on top of having such physically demanding jobs, suffer from the stress of seasonal employment and lack of mental health care access in an industry steeped in a "tough-guy" culture, which can prevent workers from seeking help, according to ENR.

Dive Insight:

Cal Beyer, director of risk management for asphalt paving company Lakeside Industries, told ENR that he has worked for years to make mental health issues and suicide part of the jobsite discussion at Lakeside and that he believes the more these issues are brought into the open, the more other construction companies will begin to take action as well.

RK Mechanical COO Jon Kinning, who said he has a history of suicide on both sides of his family, said it’s important to have upper-level management involved in these initiatives to "really move the needle" on how seriously employees take the issue and what kind of progress the company makes.

The Construction Financial Management Association said it is also educating its members about the issues of mental health, and its largest chapter in Phoenix is holding a suicide prevention summit in April as a test model for a potential nationwide initiative.

In addition to a higher risk of suicide, construction workers are also at a heightened risk of using illegal drugs or abusing prescription medications, according to a CNA report last year. The report advised employers to educate their employees about the dangers of abusing narcotic painkillers and the likelihood that they could become addicted to them. They also advised training supervisors about how to create a strong network of supportive co-workers who can help an injured worker return to the job safely.

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