This article originally appeared in the National Wood Flooring Association's Hardwood Floors Magazine.
In the construction industry, workplace safety efforts have often focused on eliminating the most-common causes of on-the-job accidents, such as falls, being struck by or caught in-between objects, electrocutions, or being exposed to hazardous chemicals and substances. For more than two decades, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has been at the forefront of enhancing physical safety and health in residential construction. NAHB takes proactive steps to keep members and affiliated state and local associations informed and educated about safety and health issues and trends affecting the building industry, including developing safety and health resources to help builders and contractors operate safe jobsites and lower workers’ compensation costs.
However, we recently have learned that construction workers are particularly susceptible to mental health issues and suicide – which is a silent killer in construction, and we know that the home building industry is not immune to the issues in the construction industry at large. We also know that industry associations have a role to play in promoting the importance of worker health and well-being to their member organizations. Helping to create sustainable workplaces and healthy, thriving professionals strengthens the industry and deepens the volunteer leadership bench. In addition to the benefits to the association, workplace well-being is good for employee health and retention, may reduce the cost of insurance, sick time, and employee turnover, and increase productivity. This can be accomplished by addressing mental well-being as part of overall safety – both physical and psychological.
How big is this problem of mental health and suicides in construction? According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), the construction industry has one of the highest rates of death by suicide compared to other industries. In 2017, the suicide rate for construction workers was 53.3 per 100,000 workers, which is nearly five times greater than the rate for all fatal work-related injuries in construction (9.5 per 100,000 workers) from the physical hazards companies focus on eliminating.