Spotlight on: physical and mental health
When it comes to building a cohesive and resilient workforce, it’s vital that firms go beyond physical health and encompass psychological fitness, too. For years it has been reported that suicide rates surpass the number of falls as a cause of death in the construction industry. And, with the United Nations marking April 28th as the World Day for Safety and Health at work, now – more than ever – is the time to look after all elements of employee wellbeing.
The construction industry is one of the most physically demanding industries, and with it contributing, on average, £113bn to the UK economy each year, employee health and safety is of the utmost importance. However, there is still a crucial need to address stigmatised topic of mental health to protect workers in this field. Read on to discover the top four items that our SHEQ manager, Mark Bush, believes should be on every board meeting agenda…
1. Employee mental health and why it’s good to talk
By its very nature, the construction sector is predominantly (80%) male, and men are statistically more likely to take their own lives. With significant periods of time spent away from home, friends and family, loneliness can soon set in – compounded by job insecurity and intense pressure.
ONS statistics have found that suicide rates for a male in the construction industry were 3.7% above the national average. A shocking statistic, but something that all businesses should collectively work towards addressing.
Hosting regular ‘toolbox talks’ – which could include discussions around emotional wellbeing – will gradually help to break the stigma that can sometimes be associated with talking about thoughts and feelings.
Here at Smith Brothers, health and safety is at the foundation of everything we do. Which is why we have recently become a Mates In Mind partner. Being a partner means we’re not only able to shape conversations around emotional and sensitive topics with expert guidance, but also have access to a portfolio of free and tailored resources. Find out more in our latest blog.
2. Adequate policies and procedures
While it is a legal requirement for leadership teams to consult with the wider business on health and safety standards, it shouldn’t just be about ‘ticking a box’. Regular, honest conversations can be a useful tool to make the workplace a safer and more productive place.
It’s important to review documentation regularly too, as well as update it in line with legislative changes, practical matters, or a shift in mindset. Above all, it’s essential to make sure the team is briefed and there are copies in places they will be seen – to ensure they don’t sit on a shelf, gathering dust.
3. Ongoing risk assessment
When it comes to the physical safety of staff, it’s important that risk assessments and method statements don’t run the risk of becoming just another ‘piece of paperwork’. As with any health and safety policy, these documents should be created in collaboration with the workers who physically carry out the job on a day-to-day basis – as they are the ones who know what might go wrong, whilst out on site.
4. Ongoing training and upskilling Developing a skills matrix according to job type is an excellent starting point when it comes to recognising the type of training each member of the team needs – as well as any minimum requirements during recruitment.
There should be ample opportunity to requalify and upskill as time progresses too, with close monitoring of any accreditation expiry dates to ensure refresher courses are organised and attended without disruption to work in progress.
By empowering employees to bolster their own skillset, and stay abreast of any industry changes, companies will automatically instil a sense of loyalty and pride in individuals.
The physical and mental wellbeing of all employees — regardless of the sector or industry they’re in — should not be overlooked. Ensuring the above items are on the agenda of every board meeting, makes future accidents less likely to happen. All employers have a critical role to play in ensuring that their workforce is safe.
To find out more about the importance of health and safety in the construction sector, catch up on our ‘Ultimate guide to SHEQ’, here.