Good mental health is great for staff – and for business, too. In our latest edition of Building Sight, we look at the increasing focus on wellbeing from a construction perspective such as how it could impact on the built environments we create, how technology is improving occupational health and the risk of psychological injury due to stress.
The prevalence and impact of poor mental health in construction has fortunately seen greater industry discourse in recent years. However, a lot more can still be done to address the problem and avoid the tragic consequences of high stress levels, which can include loss of life.
According to RMIT University’s 2017 conference paper, “Suicide in the Construction Industry: It’s time to talk”, 1,419 construction employees committed suicide between 2011 and 2015 in the UK alone.
Employers can no longer claim to be unaware of the problem, or the procedures they can adopt to protect their employees from the possible effects of poor mental health.
It is well-established with other disease claims types that, in determining liability, a court will ask whether an employer took reasonable steps to protect its employees, with reference to the accepted level of knowledge at that particular point in time.
Occupational illnesses such as mesothelioma, noise-induced hearing loss, and hand-arm vibration have shown how increased awareness usually means there will, at some point, be a sharp rise in claims.
Hard statistics are not yet available but, anecdotally, an increase in the number of stress-related employers’ liability claims in the construction sector is already being seen.
Fortunately, there are more resources to assist employers in managing this risk and identifying what “reasonable steps” they should take — such as conducting risk assessments, staff surveys, providing training, and offering confidential assistance.
Construction employers who don’t address this now run a high risk of causing psychological injury to employees in the future, and then dealing with the claims that will inevitably follow.