Electrical Contracting News (ECN) March 2017 - Page 18

KEY ISSUE MENTALLY AWARE Clive Johnson is group head of health, safety and security at Land Securities and chairs the Health in Construction Leadership Group, set up in 2015 as a direct response to research presented at the 2015 Construction Industry Advisory Committee, which exposed the high number of occupational health deaths in the sector. Here, he highlights the effects of mental ill health in the workplace. Mental ill health in the workplace is a growing issue with one in six working age adults experiencing depression, anxiety or stress related issues at any one time. Since it’s estimated that work related mental ill health costs UK employers £26bn annually through lost working days, staff turnover and lower productivity, it’s clear we need better wellbeing support for our workplaces. The effect of mental health issues in the construction industry is well documented: Statistics show that 10 per cent of all suicides happen within the sector. While the industry has, rightly, worked to reduce fatalities from the hundreds to 35-42 deaths annually in the last 10 years, construction workers in the UK are 100 times more likely to die from an occupational illness than a workplace accident. These statistics reveal there is more work to be done if we’re going to treat health, particularly mental health, as we do safety. This is why we need to commit to supporting workers’ mental health in the construction industry. It’s a problem that isn’t going away and one that must be addressed. We want the industry to look after its workforce and to see talking about things as a strength rather than a weakness, and to stamp out the ‘it’s not happening to me’ mentality. Just as we all have physical health, so too do we have mental health. When we set up Health in Construction Leadership Group, I spoke to businesses including Crossrail, Skanska and the Construction Clients Group regarding organising a summit to tackle the issue of occupational health in the construction industry head on – and the Health in Construction Leadership Group was a byproduct of the summit. The summit saw over 150 key business leaders and industry influencers in the construction sector come together to make a pledge to address the growing number of occupational health deaths and debilitating or life changing health incidences. Mental ill health in the sector was also seen as part of the problem. The collaborative group, comprises contractors, clients, the Health and Safety Executive, professional bodies, trade associations and trade unions. Invest in training At Land Securities, we have started offering training in Mental Health First Aid to staff. For any employer of any size, investing in training of Mental Health First Aid is a tangible and important step towards supporting your employees’ mental wellbeing. Being trained in Mental Health First Aid gives people the skills and confidence to spot common signs and triggers of mental ill health – and teaches them how to best signpost someone to the support they need. On 26th January, a year on from its first Health Summit, the Health in Construction Leadership Group brought the CEOs back to reflect on the progress we have made in our bid to eradicate ill health from our industry. A highlight of the event was the launch of a new mental health scheme for the industry called Mates in Mind. Organisations signing up to the Mates in Mind programme will have all of their employees given some training in mental health awareness, while line managers will take part in a half day training session. At Land Securities, our Occupational Health Customer Improvement Group agreed that all contractors, once the scheme was launched, must sign up to the Mates in Mind programme. We want to give staff and contractors the tools to proactively look out for the tell-tale signs of mental ill health. Training includes managers, as well as the general workforce. Health in Construction Leadership Group is committed to its vision to make construction the leading industry for occupational health and disease prevention by 2025, and achieve a cultural shift within the sector, so health is managed like safety. There are a number of ways we can support health, including mental health, in the workplace. Mental Health First Aid is one of those ways, and one that allows us to take a proactive, rather than a reactive approach to employees’ mental health. For more guidance around how to approach and respond to a colleague who is experiencing a mental health issue download the free Line Managers Resource at https://mhfaengland.org/linemanagers-resource/ Find out more about Mates in Mind on the Health in Construction Leadership Group’s website. To find out how employers can support the wellbeing of their staff and demonstrate their commitment to mental health, visit https://mhfaengland.org/ and download the free MHFA England Take 10 Together toolkit. 18 | March 2017