We need to look after our fellow workers around us

By Jon Vanstone, Certass.

Every working day in the UK, two construction workers take their own life.

Our numbers are alarming, and we need to band together with other construction colleagues to help those of us in need, who sometimes cannot see their positives for all the pressures of life.

We have on average 38 fatalities a year on construction sites, with 2,000 major accidents incapacitating the worker so they cannot return to work. Construction can be brutal, with 82,000 new or long-standing cases of work-related illness reported that can be directly attributed to working within the industry.

More than 2.4 million man-days are lost through injury or illness in our industry each year, and over 46% of all occupational cancer cases in the UK are directly attributed to working in construction.

In male-dominated environments, the negative can be the stigma we place on words such as mental health. We believe in labelling people as a society, and people with mental health problems are often wrongly perceived as violent and weak, with conditions that are self-inflicted so they cannot work and will not recover.

The fact is we all have mental health, it is the way we think, the way we feel and our overall wellbeing. However, in a country where 80% of mental health suicides are male, only 36% of the referrals are male, showing our disturbing masculine reticence to identify and address the issue.

We know that the risk of suicide among low-skilled male construction labourers is three times higher than the male national average, and this statistical ratio will remain until we can change the collective culture, so that people feel safe enough to talk about their feelings and get support when they need it.

It is no wonder with such headlines that parents are nervous of their children working within our industry, outside of all the skills and career debates.

The Construction industry helpline (www.constructionindustryhelpline.com) is a resource available to anyone connected to construction and their families, supporting people at times of stress and need. I would urge anyone who feels this may relate to them or their colleagues to find out more and make a difference.

There is so much you can do within your own workplace, including awareness training and toolbox talks that help in identification, destigmatising and practical steps in improving the situation of those who are suffering. Many companies are starting to appoint mental health first aiders for which there are nationally recognised courses.

And to anyone reading this who may feel it relates to them: please look at ways to address your stress. Keep active, stay in touch with people you care about, be honest about how you feel, and do something you are good at. Be accepting of who you are, take a break if you can and most of all ask for help.