Mind your head

Fostering a Supportive Work Environment for Mental Health in Construction

It’s World Mental Health Day on October 10th, so what better time to tackle the issue of the stigma around mental health-related illness in the construction industry and what we can do to overcome it.

The objective of World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to boost efforts supporting mental health. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) states that 18.5% of the Irish population has a mental health disorder, placing Ireland third highest in Europe (after Finland and the Netherlands) in the estimated prevalence of a mental health issue.

Over the past couple of years, particularly with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects, companies have become more aware of the impact poor mental health can have on their workforce.

Mental health issues in the construction industry

According to “Mental Health in the Construction Sector”, a Construction Industry Federation (CIF) survey carried out in 2020, mental wellbeing and work-related stress are among the most challenging occupational health and safety concerns for construction workers. 

The survey uncovered that the biggest contributors to poor mental health in the sector were:

  • General work-related stress (44%)
  • Unrealistic work targets (29%)
  • Long working hours (22%) 
  • A macho work culture where employees are uncomfortable seeking help (16%)
  • A bullying culture (15%)
  • Poor communication between management and staff (9%) 

It is more than likely some combination of these factors that has given rise to the stigma surrounding speaking openly about poor mental health in the industry.

The stigma around mental health and wellbeing in construction

For any business, supporting the positive mental health of its employees can be a real challenge. But for Irish construction companies it’s perhaps a bigger obstacle than in any other industry. In the same CIF survey mentioned above, 81% of employers reported that employees’ mental health is a very sensitive issue and difficult to address, with 68% saying they would find it much easier to manage an employee who is physically sick than one with a mental health difficulty.

At ADCO we care about what’s going on under the hard hat too

Safety in construction has traditionally been more concerned about the physical aspect rather than the mental, focusing much more on reducing hazards associated with working at height, moving plant and vehicles, working around hidden pipes and cables and the like. But at ADCO, we see that as only half of the task at hand.

With stress, depression or anxiety accounting for 27% of all work-related illnesses in the construction industry, the ADCO health and safety policy goes inside the hard hat and tackles the issue of mental health head-on. As a male-dominated industry there has historically been a culture of not opening up about mental or emotional challenges. As our Environmental Health & Safety Manager, Robert O’Reilly, puts it: “There can be a stigma in the construction industry, but we’re not all the macho people we pretend to be.”

“Mind Your Mental Health”: ADCO’s campaign for mental health awareness and safety

Protecting the mental health and safety of our workers reduces the risk of accident, injury or illness, and prevents project delays and hold-ups, improving the overall quality of our construction work as a result.

As part of our ongoing “Mind Your Mental Health” campaign, which was the winner of the Excellence in Health & Safety award at the 2022 Irish Construction Industry Awards, we have introduced a variety of targeted presentations, workshops, talks with celebrity speakers on mental health issues, and communications to generate awareness of the underlying problems for people on ADCO projects. Another key element of this campaign is our Employee Assistance Programme.

ADCO Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)

When our employees are dealing with personal problems or experiencing issues with their mental health, it can negatively impact their work performance, health and wellbeing. The ADCO EAP provides assessment, short-term counselling and referral services for employees and their immediate family.

We arrange site visits and talks on mental health issues to give our team members the confidence to open up. We also sponsor the Lighthouse Club, who provide a 24/7 helpline and app for people in the construction industry to discuss any problems they are experiencing with trained mental health professionals.

When you work with ADCO, your physical and mental safety is vitally important

Health and safety has always been a top priority for us. Our safety record is one of the reasons why over 80% of ADCO’s work is sourced from repeat business clients. It’s also one of the reasons why our health and safety policy has achieved an A rating on Safe-T-Cert. 

To learn more about working at ADCO and our health and safety policies, click here. You can also reach out to Robert and his EHS team for further information on our approach to supporting and protecting our workers. And if you have any ideas, we’ll be only too happy to hear them. We’re always looking to see where we can raise our standards of health and safety protection in construction to even higher levels!

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