Suicides in Construction Occur at Higher Rate than OSHA’s Fatal Four
Everyone is aware of the dangers of working in the construction field. Every day, workers go the job and are surrounded by hazardous conditions that could cause serious injury, or even death. Safety professionals around the world are tasked with helping ensure that workers go home each day to their friends and family, we take that responsibility seriously. But what happens when employees get home? Are they ok when they leave the job, or should we be concerned with what happens after they get home? Most people are not aware that suicides in construction occur at a higher rate than OSHA’S Fatal Four.
The construction industry is four times more likely than any other industry to lose an employee to suicide
The suicide rate in construction is 45.3/100,000 compared to the national average for other industries of 14.2/100,000. Based on these numbers, it is five times more likely that an employer will lose an employee to suicide than to what OSHA considers the fatal four: falls, electrocution, struck by, caught in/between.
Take time to educate employees about the contributing factors, signs, and prevention of suicide during National Suicide Prevention Week each year, but also throughout the year.
Suicide is the second biggest cause of death
For men between the ages of 25 and 54, suicide is the second biggest cause of death. Men in the construction industry face the additional hardship from physical activity paired with a ‘tough guy’ culture that can make it more difficult to reach out and seek help.
Stress is one of the main contributors to the decline in mental health, and it can manifest in five ways: physical, emotional, intellectual, and personal well-being. Physical symptoms can present itself as rapid weight gain or weight loss, difficulty sleeping or fatigue. Emotional stress symptoms can come from feeling incompetent and cause irritability. Intellectual symptoms are often shown through procrastination or difficulty concentrating, and personal well-being stressors can mean isolation from friends and family or a loss of sense of humor.
These types of stress can exacerbate mental health issues and lead to depression and suicidal thoughts. Often, individuals choose to self-medicate and abuse both drugs and alcohol instead of seeking professional help, due in part to the stigma associated with mental health.
Stress factors common in the construction industry that can contribute to a decline in mental health:
- Periods of unsteady employment depending on seasons
- Sleep disruption
- Chronic pain caused by manual labor
- Travel which may separate workers from families and friends
- Pressure to finish projects
- Difficult working conditions
What resources are available
In the workplace, it is important to know what resources are available to support employees’ psychological health, and where there are gaps in the system. Learn to recognize the signs of an at-risk employee and create a supportive environment where individuals are not afraid of being reprimanded.
- Be aware of the signs and behaviors that tell us we may not be functioning at our best.
- Help employees develop coping skills for life’s challenges such as, stress management, parenting, conflict resolution, and anger management.
- Integrate psychological safety into overall health and wellness priorities.
- Conduct Toolbox Talks on psychological safety topics.
- Contact your work comp provider to see what resources are available.
- Contact the National Suicide Prevention Line (800) 273-8255 if you or someone you know is struggling.
- Make a commitment to your employees to establish and maintain a mentally healthy workplace.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline – (800) 273-8255
Recognizing Risk – 5 Rs of workplace mental health
Construction Company Case Study: Frank Talk about Mental Health
Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP)
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
Prepared by Trivent Safety Consulting
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