Improving Construction Employee Well-Being
Construction is a traditionally a rough and tumble work environment, so any discussion about employee well-being might seem a bit out of place. Construction is often perceived as an industry full of tough individuals who should have no problem dealing with physical or mental health problems.
The truth is that we need to focus more on the well-being of our employees regardless of what industry they are in. We need to shake off the traditional perceptions and take a more proactive approach to supporting employee well-being.
What Are the Top Health Risks for Construction Workers?
Statistically, construction workers are 100 times more likely to die from diseases such as silicosis or asbestosis as a result of their job. As the construction industry continues to age, we need to ensure that employees can have long, productive careers. Construction workers are also more likely to suffer from mental health issues in addition to the physical ailments that may plague them.
A significant amount of research shows that stress related to work and the workplace are big problems for construction workers in particular. Stress is related to poor mental health outcomes, including depression, anxiety, and risk of suicidality.
The risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among construction workers cannot be overstated. In one study in the UK, 16% of male suicides in a five-year period had occupations in construction. In Ireland, half of all male suicides between 2008-2012 came from a construction or production background. Similarly alarming figures come from the U.S., where the suicide rate for men in construction and extraction is double that for men in the general population.
The same poor mental health in construction can also apply to substance misuse and abuse. Nearly 16.5% percent of full-time construction workers report that they drink heavily. In addition, nearly 11.6% have utilized illicit drugs, and 14.3% may be addicted to one of these substances. It is not hard to see that the health of our staff is a major concern for the industry and that we need to place more focus on both mental and physical health.
Strategies to Improve Employee Well-being
In order to reduce the amount of missed work caused by health issues, you might focus on reducing the instances of sickness and injuries. This means strengthening health and safety assessments as well as reducing exposure to key factors that cause illness.
In addition, many employers are beginning to focus on health factors that are not directly related to the work but can still be impacted by being in the construction industry. Implementing wellness plans can lead to improving overall health, making employees more productive and therefore generating a reasonable return on safety investment.
Wellness programs can also be very effective in recruiting new employees and retaining existing employees. You are demonstrating to employees that you care for them and that you are investing in their well-being. There certainly can be a financial implication of implementing such programs, but they should be considered an investment in your employees.
Ensuring employee well-being is extremely important to the overall success of a company. Our employees are the reason we can complete the work and are our most valuable assets. Investing in both their physical and mental health is an important factor in improving the overall profitability and long term success of an organization.