Protection for workers in the construction industry from preventable death goes beyond physical safety gear, training and equipment use protocols. Construction workers are at higher risk for mental and emotional stress, which can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. The construction industry commonly employs many workers that are in high-risk suicide categories – overall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the construction industry ninth in worker suicide risk. Incorporating worker suicide prevention guidelines at your company should be a safety priority.
Recognizing Suicide Risk Factors
The construction industry has a “tough-guy” reputation. That reputation is part of the reason why this industry has such a high risk of suicide amongst its workers. Some of the factors that can identify a workplace at higher risk for suicide deaths includes:
- Male-dominated workforce. In 2017, men died by suicide in the U.S. 54 times more often than women and suicide is the second-highest cause of death in men 25-54. However, construction is one of the top careers of women who commit suicide.
- Chronic pain. Workers who experience chronic pain (common in physical jobs like construction) are more likely to experience substance and alcohol abuse, as well as depression and sleep disturbances, all risk factors for suicidal thoughts.
- Access to lethal means. Construction sites can present access to lethal means for taking life (heights, explosives, etc.), a risk factor for suicide.
- Undiagnosed or untreated mental or emotional conditions. When depression or other mental conditions are not diagnosed or addressed due to the stigma attached, workers have a higher risk of suicide.
- Toughness is rewarded. The physical and demanding nature of construction work requires a level of toughness – workers may not want to appear “weak” by admitting pain - physical or emotional.
Worker Suicide Prevention Safety Measures
While changing the culture of the construction industry overnight is unrealistic, there are many ways to incorporate suicide prevention tools into your workplace. Worker suicide prevention begins with addressing the key risk factors, then offering tools to identify and address problems when they occur. Some of these worker suicide prevention methods can include:
- Promoting mental health practices and provide resources for workers
- Offer training for stress management, conflict resolution and substance-abuse awareness
- Ensure mental health services are affordable for workers
- Train managers to detect and identify symptoms of those at risk
- Connect at-risk workers with mental health services
Implementing the right combination of suicide prevention training, resources and access to help for your construction company can save lives. At SafetyPro Resources, our team can work with your company to create a worker suicide prevention strategy that will begin changing the culture at your workplace. It may be one of the most valuable safety measures you invest in for your team to save lives.