This week I feel that I have made a difference, it is difficult to measure but as a QS I really want to establish a way of doing so. I felt guilty about having spent so much of my time this week not sat behind the screen producing spreadsheets or reading contracts but out on site engaging with the operatives.
I have for a long while known that it isn’t the actual job that excites me anymore; the scale and pace of the build is immense, the technology is fascinating, but what I really enjoy is being part of this team and helping others.
I have learned a lot this week, about my team and the shocking statistics we don’t really like to talk about.
In 2016/17 There were 30 fatalities from workplace accidents in the Construction Industry – many of these were falls from height and details of every individual can be seen on the HSE website.
We all agree that is 30 too many, but, take a look at the next shocking statistic…
In 2016 454 Construction workers took their own lives
This is our silent epidemic, and we are not immune – mental illness does not discriminate and 1 in 4 of us every year will experience a mental health problem.
So why is poor mental health so prevalent in the industry?
• Our work can be isolating, away from our families or working alone
• The Environment can be harsh on exposed sites
• The work may be fragmented across different schemes
• We work to pressurised deadlines
• We work long hours
• We have long commutes
• Exhaustion contributes to poor mental health
What are the signs of poor mental health?
• Increased lateness, absenteeism, and presenteeism (showing up to work physically, but not able to function)
• Reduced productivity
• Low self-confidence
• Withdrawal from social activities
• Agitation and irritability
• Decreased ability to prioritise workload or solve problems
and yet we just don’t feel able to talk about it
We still feel the stigma of talking about our mental health with many of us fearing discrimination if we disclose our own health issues. This is where Mates In Mind have made a huge impact in the last few years providing us with the tools and resources to raise awareness and normalise the conversations in the Construction Industry.
This epidemic is silent, despite the alarming statistics construction has a far lower number of self-reported mental health cases.
This is not surprising given results of past studies.
• 40% of employers view employees with a mental health condition as a significant risk.
The good day at work report 2014/15
• 9 out of 10 people with a mental health condition say that had experienced discrimination.
• 3 out 5 people suffer with a mental health condition caused by their work.
Mental Health at work, 2018 Summary Report, 2018
For the same reasons many of us are adept at suppressing our poor mental health within the workplace. In fact, most workers are more likely to report absences for any other reason rather than poor mental health.
I have also learned there are angels among us that look out for their fellow workers, making the call for a colleague in crisis and following up week after week with a call or text message to make sure the person is okay. I have made many cups of tea this week and let others speak, gently asking them about how they are getting on site whilst they slowly opened up about the difficulties they were having.
I have joked that I am the highest paid tea lady on site, but, in truth I have probably saved time and money in the long run, this is the difference that I want to measure in ensuring my fellow worker is safe, feels supported and has the tools and resources to keep coming to site and making a difference. Because work is where we make connections, it is the place that we make a difference and can quickly access support.
Remember, it is often those with the biggest smiles that are masking the biggest struggles.
Mental illness can be physically exhausting
We are not weak we are strong
I take my hard hat off to all of you reading this, all of you who are struggling on, all of you supporting someone else and all of you committed to make the change.