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Poor mental health can have serious consequences on health and safety within the construction sector

By Chris Handley, Construction Director at Concert

Thank goodness we’re beyond the days where poor mental health was deemed to be a weakness or flaw. However, we still have a way to go in order to recognise suffering in others. While Health, Safety and positive Mental Health promotion are crucial components of our overall wellbeing, poor mental health is still a very hidden ailment and often neglected. Yet mental health issues, if left to deteriorate can lead to severe depression.

There are not enough articles that recognise the pressures that we, as humans are faced with, so I wanted to highlight ways in which we can cope, and how we recognise in others that they, in fact, might not be okay.

Contrary to popular belief, workplace related stress is not reportable under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences regulations). But should it be? Dermatitis is notifiable, as is asthma, neither of which are known for their mortality issues. Stress, however, is known to cause fatalities, not just of the individual suffering from stress, but of those affected by his or her acts or omissions.

According to research, the most common cause of stress is work-related, with 79 per cent saying they frequently felt it (Statistica)(i) while one in 14 adults (seven per cent) feel stressed every single day (CIPHR)(ii).

Over a working day we all face challenges that test us. The problem is that we don’t always have only one single challenge, sometimes, like buses, three or four challenges come at once and we are then presented with a number of choices:

1. We chose to prioritise the challenges by order of the significance of the client.

2. We chose to prioritise by the size of the fee at stake.

3. We prioritise whoever is shouting loudest.

4. By which of them has been shouting the longest.

5. We stick our head in the sand.

Let’s say the person in question chooses option five. How does an employer begin to recognise this? There will be several indicators that an issue is developing:

  • Aches and pains
  • Signs of fatigue and muscular tension
  • Headaches, dizziness, shaking and/or heart palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Exhaustion or trouble sleeping
  • Loss of motivation
  • Weak immune system
  • Panic attacks

Of course, all too often we allow these things to go on, unchecked, until it’s too late. As with any accident or incident there are blatant costs involved, but the hidden costs are what is important; a life, a family, a personal reputation. These are the things that affect the individual(s) concerned, and where we should be focusing our energy way before we get to the point of no return.

We are all guilty of sticking our head in the sand over poor mental health issues, and now it’s time to do something about it. We all need to increase vigilance of fellow workers to create a culture of care, ensuring employees are aware of how to seek help when a colleague, or yourself requires it. The sooner the company knows of an issue, the sooner relevant actions can be put in place.

Enlightened companies will support their valued employees. At Concert we address all these issues by providing health benefits and advice to all employees. We have regular 1:1’s with line managers, and the Directors have regular catchups with the HR manager to discuss any potential issues that have, or may become an issue.

Health, Safety and Mental Health are interconnected and dependant on each other, and neglecting one can have a significant impact on the others so, when you ask someone if they’re okay, make sure you listen properly to their answer.

(i) www.statista.com/statistics/1134359/common-types-of-stress-in-the-uk/
(ii) www.ciphr.com/workplace-stress-statistics/

About Sarah OBeirne

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