With construction workers’ mental health becoming a major focus for health and safety professionals, our Director of Health and Safety, Steve Foster explores new measures and initiatives that are making a positive impact on worker’s health and wellbeing.
As an industry, we are well aware of the alarming data around worker’s mental health. At Prater we have made it our mission to stand up, take action and ensure that all of our employees feel supported.
The biggest obstacle for evoking change in this industry is the culture of silence. If we change this, then we will be ever closer to eliminating the perceived stigma around mental health.
It is important to create environments where people feel comfortable enough to speak out about what they are experiencing or any problems they may have. This needs to be implemented from the very top, at managerial levels, to ensure an open door policy where all employees feel that they will be supported, and understood, when asking for help.
At Prater we have also begun to implement mental health training. This is an effective way to start the conversation in the workplace and educate employees on, not only their own mental health, but also on the needs of their colleagues. These sessions help our employees, at all levels, to recognise any signifiers of potential issues. Taking the time to speak to a workforce will encourage open conversations and ensure everyone is aware of the policies that are in place to support them – no matter their position within the company.
Other common issues, that once addressed could benefit the overall health of those working within the construction industry, are the unhealthy dietary habits so often found onsite. Physical health can have a significant influence on mental wellbeing and regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health – helping to improve sleep, relieve stress and boost overall mood.
Workplace initiatives can be a great incentive to encourage exercise as well as build strong bonds within a team – and they don’t have to be costly. For example, we have previously implemented step counting challenges to encourage fitness and healthy competition.
Furthermore, we have also encouraged small and simple changes, such as providing healthy alternatives in onsite canteens, which has had a huge beneficial impact on our staff’s daily nutrition.
Although, as an industry, we have taken huge strides to tackle issues regarding health and wellbeing, it would be naïve to not recognise that further improvements can be made. Within the industry, cross sector learning and information sharing from other construction companies is getting better, but there needs to be much more of it. A lot can be learnt from those who have unprecedented health and safety records. Furthermore, charities such as Mates in Mind and Lighthouse have been set up specifically to improve positive mental wellbeing in the UK construction industry, employees should be made aware of these options.
Those with the ability to lead the necessary change must do so in order to encourage the rest of the industry. At Prater, as we modify our health and safety approach, we will be motivating our workforce and key supply chain partners to do the same.