When you think of construction site management, do you think about safety? If so, chances are that your thoughts are focused on the physical safety of workers. While this is an important consideration in any business, it’s not the only one.
A large number of construction workers experience mental health issues. In Australia, it’s estimated that 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. The good news is that there are steps you can take to make sure your business meets its legal obligations for protecting workers’ mental health at construction sites while also making sure they stay safe and productive at all times.
How can mental health be an issue at construction sites?
Construction work is physically demanding, and it can be dangerous. It’s also common for workers to work in isolated environments where they’re not interacting with many people. This can lead to feelings of isolation and distress, which are both potential triggers for mental health issues.
Moreover, construction workers often spend long hours away from home on-site or at the office, working in high-stress environments where they’re expected to perform at a high level. They may also be required to work long hours without breaks or opportunities for social interaction. Construction workers can also spend considerable time in high-noise, dust-filled environments – triggers that have been found to affect individual mental health.
How to safeguard workers’ mental health at construction sites?
Construction businesses and supervisors are well-versed in the importance of construction site safeguards. They know that physical safety is just as much a priority as mental health for their workers. As a result, businesses have taken steps to ensure that all employees are aware of the potential hazards on site and how to mitigate them—whether it’s through hard hats or steel-toed boots.
But what about workplace mental health? It may be easy to think that this isn’t something that needs to be addressed in the context of construction sites, but there is evidence suggesting otherwise. Research has shown that people who work in environments where there are high demands placed on them may experience higher levels of stress and anxiety than those who don’t have demanding jobs. Additionally, studies show that construction workers are more likely than others within their industries (such as manufacturing) to report symptoms related to depression or anxiety at work.
Worker mental health is an issue in construction. Construction workers suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions at about the same rate as other workers. The result is that construction accidents also have a large impact on mental health, which can affect productivity and increase absenteeism.
To help protect workers mental health in your business:
- Raise awareness of the problem by highlighting its effects on safety, productivity, and company reputation.
- Explain the consequences of failing to address it effectively – including legal action if necessary – so that those responsible take steps to prevent it from happening again.
- Make sure staff know how they should act if they see signs that someone may be experiencing problems with their mental health at work or home.
2. Monitoring wellbeing
Monitoring well-being is a great way to identify mental health problems and other issues at construction sites. It can help you identify problems early so that you can take action and prevent them from becoming bigger issues later on.
Here are some things you should consider when monitoring the well-being of your construction workers:
- What are the indicators of mental health problems? For example, someone who is experiencing depression may show symptoms such as low energy levels and lack of motivation or someone experiencing anxiety might often have trouble sleeping or concentrating or someone with PTSD might have flashbacks or startle easily. If any of these symptoms seem like they apply to one of your employees, consider talking through it with them further and/or referring them for professional help if needed.
- How can you monitor emotional well-being? You should ask your employees how they’re feeling both physically (i.e., “Are you tired?”) and mentally (“How was your day?”). This gives a space to your employees to talk about anything bothering them and provide insights on what is happening on site right now—something that could be useful for improving overall morale and workplace safety!
3. Creating a safe environment for employees to speak up
One of the most important factors in creating a safe environment for your employees is open communication. Employees need to feel comfortable voicing their concerns about safety and psychological health, whether it’s through an anonymous hotline or simply by approaching their boss. This could be as simple as asking if there are any problems with the work environment, or more formal like filling out a survey that asks about stress levels at work. In addition to being able to voice concerns, employees need to know that they will be taken seriously when they do so—and that any concerns will lead to concrete changes.
Creating a culture of psychological safety within your business is crucial in encouraging workers to speak up when they’re not feeling safe on site.
4. Training supervisors on psychological safety and how to avoid causing harm to workers’ mental health
A crucial step in safeguarding workers’ mental health is training your supervisors on how to create a safe environment for employees to speak up if they feel unsafe. Make sure they know that they must listen and that they should never question the validity of what an employee says—even if it seems like an overreaction.
If you’re working on a project with multiple subcontractors, make sure the subcontractor supervisor has been trained as well. Everyone involved in the project (including yourself) needs to have access to this information so no one feels afraid or uncomfortable about speaking up about their concerns or needs.
In the construction industry, where workplace injuries are common, it’s especially important to take steps to prevent injuries and improve psychological safety at work sites. Psychological safety is when workers feel safe to speak up about unsafe conditions or practices without fear of retaliation, judgment or harassment. It also helps reduce errors caused by stress or pressure on the job site, which can lead to long-term mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.
Psychological safety can improve productivity by reducing conflict between workers and helping them feel more connected with their coworkers.
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