The construction industry, including shopfitting, employs more than 625,000 people across Australia, making it one of the biggest employers in the country – and the statistics surrounding the mental health of construction workers are staggering.
According to recent reports from MATES in Construction and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC):
- construction workers are more than twice as likely to suicide as other people in Australia
- construction workers are six times more likely to die by suicide than through a workplace accident
- apprentices in construction are two and a half times more likely to suicide than other young men their age
- 21 per cent of workers in the construction industry were shown to have had a mental health condition
- 9 per cent of construction workers have a condition affecting their mood, such as depression.
In a ‘she’ll be right’ male-dominated industry, it is becoming increasingly important for employers to understand and support their workers, and to consider that the people they employ are likely to have experienced mental illness at some point.
While the curtains are slowly lifting around mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, the benefits to both workers and employers are astounding. Not only does a mentally healthy workplace create a more engaged, robust and productive workforce, but research also shows that healthy workers are more productive, take fewer sick days, and are less at risk of injuries and return to work quicker than their less healthy counterparts. Research also shows that a well-planned wellbeing program can have a long-term return on investment of 1:5 or higher, and a reduction in workers’ compensation claims, reduced absenteeism, improved morale of workers and increased productivity.
Wellbeing programs can support better lifestyle choices around smoking, nutrition, harmful alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and obesity all risk factors for avoidable chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Additionally, poor mental health can either be a contributor to or the result of having a number of chronic diseases.
Workers can be supported to make healthier choices by providing education and ensuring physical environments, policies and organisational systems support a healthy lifestyle.
By investing and participating in workplace health programs, you can make your worksite a mentally healthy work environment… and it’s not that difficult!
Involve everyone – all workers can participate in activities that promote mental health.
Invest in health and wellbeing and see your bottom line improve – a well-designed workplace mental health and wellness program can return investment for small business, with reductions in leave and rises in productivity.
Take a holistic approach – adopt an integrated approach that looks at the big picture and how everything you do fits together to support mental health in your workplace.
Raise awareness of mental health at toolbox talks or informal chats, promote healthy ways of working and be seen to be doing the same.
So, where and how do you start taking action?
While all this sounds great, deciding where to start can be difficult. It can help to begin with small improvements and build from there. Consider starting with some simple activities, that everyone can try. Over time, develop a comprehensive mental health and wellbeing program and watch the benefits for your business grow.
You’ll find that some simple activities are a great place to start, like:
- circulate information such as fact sheets, e-newsletters, intranet or websites, online resources and posters that promote positive mental health.
- talk about mental health with your team regularly and consider using toolbox talks, webinars or podcasts like those from Safe Work Australia, Heads Up or Mates In Construction.
- build knowledge and skills to stay mentally fit with training, tools and resources that are supported by evidence – use eHealth apps, mindfulness and physical activity programs
- conduct a staff satisfaction survey to gather feedback on areas of concern and ideas about how to create a workplace that supports mental health.
To assist, WorkSafe Victoria has developed an online tool that can help businesses to take their first steps towards a positive, mentally healthy workplace.
The WorkWell Toolkit brings together resources and ideas that are tailormade to suit any business size, in any industry.
It’s as simple as taking a questionnaire about your business to get personalised advice, create an account to receive videos, templates and case studies that are relevant to you and your workers, and then track your progress online.
SafeWork NSW also has a Mental Health at Work website, with tools and resources that will support you to implement wellbeing strategies at any work site.
Begin by encouraging conversation, checking in with workers regularly and lead by example. The health of your team might depend upon it.
This information is provided by ASOFIA as general work health and safety information. ASOFIA does not make any representation or warranty about the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of any material contained here or in any links to additional sources. The information herein does not replace any statutory requirements under any relevant State and Territory legislation, and you should always check with your relevant jurisdiction. Links to other websites do not constitute an endorsement of material at those sites, or any associated organisation, product or service.