- Skanska UK has implemented a simple solution that it claims will help protect one of its most important assets: its workers. Specifically, the new practice involves helping employees address mental health concerns.
- Workers can speak with specially trained team members who have undertaken a mental health training course. These trained employees wear a green circular sticker that reads "Mental Health First Aider" on their hard hat, indicating to those on the jobsite that they are available to talk or to address an issue related to mental wellbeing.
- The initiative was rolled out recently on a roughly $346 million highway improvement project in the United Kingdom. Eight qualified workers have displayed their hardhat stickers since Jan. 17, instantly flagging them to the 100 workers onsite as a resource. Skanska UK said that 55% of its employees have been trained in the Mental Health Aware course or as a first aider.
Skanska has also taken up mental health efforts in the U.S. For instance, last year the Sweden-based contractor partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide to host virtual and in-person trainings, Paul Haining, senior vice president and head of EHS shared services at Skanska USA, told Construction Dive.
"One of the elements that we have integrated into all our jobsites and offices is a daily 'stretch and flex' huddle to start the day," Haining said. "This gives us a chance [to] combine exercises to physically limber up with daily check-ins on how people are doing."
In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the suicide rate among construction workers in the U.S. is more than three times the national average, with 49.4 suicide deaths per 100,000 workers. Additionally, for every person that dies by suicide there are another 25 suicide attempts.
Jobsites are also largely populated by men, who are twice as likely to die by suicide as women.
In addition to being at high risk of suicide, construction workers can face issues with general health and morale, which can impact other aspects of the jobsite. Contractor mental health initiatives seek to address issues such as depression, anxiety, addiction and anger.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the issue of contractor mental health, causing the CDC to update a checklist for construction employers to consider the mental health and wellbeing of their workers. The organization highlighted how the pandemic could affect work, making it vital for leaders to communicate expectations, anticipate behavior changes and ensure there is a system in place to identify issues and provide support.
Correction: This story has been updated to properly display Paul Haining's title.