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Treating Health like Safety...

Addressing mental health in the construction industry...

Industry leaders unite once again under the guidance of the Health in Construction Leadership Group.

The Health in Construction Leadership Group (HCLG) yesterday welcomed over 300 Construction leaders and influencers yesterday for a second summit to continue the discussion on reducing the burden of ill-health in the construction industry, one year on since the inaugural event.

At the first summit held in January 2016, over 150 CEOs from across the industry gathered to discuss the importance of raising awareness of health issues in the construction industry and focussed initially on respiratory disease. With over 100 times more workers dying from occupational disease than from accidents, the HCLG focussed on bringing companies together to collaborate relentlessly in identifying best practice for reducing root causes of such health issues.

Throughout 2016, the HCLG has played a pivotal role in facilitating the sharing of best practice and innovations across the industry, to help raise standards in the way health risks are managed on construction sites. This has included the promotion of key awareness-raising campaigns such as ‘Breathe Freely’ and ‘No Time to Lose’ which offers free guidance and resources for managing health risks in construction. More information, and access to a range of case studies from the group, is available here.

Following the success of the event last year, the 2017 summit aimed to reflect on progress to date as well as to bring a focus to the growing issue of mental health within the industry, and equipped delegates with the tools and techniques to apply within their companies.

This included the launch of the Mates in Mind programme, set up with the support of the British Safety Council. Mates in Mind aims to raise awareness and understanding of poor mental health in the construction sector by bringing the industry together to openly talk and address the stigma associated with mental health through employer support and sharing of information.

With one in four people experiencing a mental health issue in their lifetime, the Centre for Mental Health estimates that 91 million working days are lost each year, a cost equivalent to employers of circa £26 billion.

In partnership with the launch of Mates in Mind workshops were organised for delegates to further build on the lessons learnt in 2016 on respiratory diseases, designing out health issues from construction and how to appropriately approach mental health in the workplace.

Martin Temple, Chair of the Health and Safety Executive welcomed the delegates, who also heard from Patrick Heath-Lay, Chief Executive Officer, B&CE on building a healthier future within the industry. Delegates also heard from Lee Rowland, a carpenter who for years suffered from mental ill-health and spoke about the widespread impacts on both his personal and professional life.

Clive Johnson, one of the founding members and chair of the HCLG and Group Head of Health, Safety and Security at Land Securities, said, “With suicide causing ten times more deaths than accidents on sites, it is imperative that the industry is truly aware of the deeply impactful consequences of unaddressed mental health issues.”

“In raising this issue today with over 300 industry leaders, we have set the foundations to addressing mental health openly, confidently and honestly within the construction industry; not just by ‘starting the conversation’ but by providing delegates with the skills and knowledge to go back into their workplace and address this issue head on”.

Minister for Public Health and Innovation, Nicola Blackwood said: “Everyone needs support and care from those around them, and it is great to see such attention given to mental health within the construction industry. We spend so much of our time at work so I welcome the work that Mates in Mind is doing to raise awareness and understanding, particularly as suicide is a major cause of death. This Government is determined to address the struggles faced by people with mental ill health, and our recently updated suicide prevention strategy will make sure help is given to those who need it the most.”

The event was widely supported by industry bodies such as British Occupational Hygiene Society, The British Safety Council, Build UK, Construction Industry Training Board, the Health and Safety Executive, International Institute of Risk and Safety Management and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health.

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