National Grid is calling on the construction sector to work together to develop an industry-wide approach to improve the mental health and well-being of its workers.
Suicide rates for construction workers in the UK are over three times the national average with over two employees dying by suicide every day.
This highlights that wellbeing initiatives are not reaching the most vulnerable and more needs to be done to improve support and services offered within the sector.
There are a range of factors which make construction employees especially at risk of poor mental health including regular periods of underemployment, extended time spent away from family and friends and high mobility within the workforce. This has only been exacerbated through the pandemic.
According to research by CIOB, some 91% of workers report feeling overwhelmed and 26% have experienced suicidal thoughts.*
National Grid is determined to change this, by establishing a Health in Construction Consortium and leaders have called for supporters from throughout the sector to join the project.
The call to action was made at the official launch of a new on-site Health Hub at the company’s IFA interconnector site in Kent on Thursday (19 May).
The facility has been specially designed to improve the wellbeing of construction workers and includes a canteen providing heathy meals, recreational space, a garden and a gym as well as a quiet room for prayer and reflection.
Services such as mental health and wellbeing sessions, training and support helplines will be provided by charity Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity which provides vital support for those working within the sector.
The facility, which has been constructed by contractor J Murphy & Sons Limited, is already providing vital services to hundreds of employees working around the clock at the company’s IFA interconnector.
Together with Considerate Constructors Scheme, National Grid has established a Health in Construction Consortium and will be sharing findings from this project across the industry to demonstrate the difference this kind of support can make to workers.
We understand that collaboration and coordination across key stakeholders in the industry will be critical to tackling the mental health crisis in construction.
Managing Director of Interconnectors for National Grid, Nicola Medalova, said: “This is an issue that all of us in the construction sector have a responsibility to address. The research shows that something has to change. That’s why we’re looking for representatives from across the sector including small to medium-sized enterprise, large businesses, contractors, and clients, who are passionate about mental health, to be part of the solution.
"We understand that collaboration and coordination across key stakeholders in the industry will be critical to tackling the mental health crisis in construction. So, whether you are getting started, in development, or leading the way on mental health issues within the sector, we call for your support and ask for you to join us in being an agent for change.”
Considerate Constructors Scheme Chief Executive Amanda Long said: “As an industry, the workforce is at a higher-than-average risk of poor mental health and suicide and we must take action. It is vital that we work together with the construction sector to give all employees access to the support and facilities they need to look after their mental health and wellbeing.”
Chief Executive of Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity Bill Hill said: “We are absolutely delighted to be working with National Grid on this significant issue within our industry. It is so important that we get the message of support to the 'boots on the ground' that we are there for them 24/7. If our workforce don’t know we are there for them we simply can’t help them in crisis. We are delighted to support National Grid’s Health Hub and I am convinced that this initiative will have a positive impact on workforce wellbeing and ultimately save lives.”
National Grid is working with WMG at the University of Warwick to research the experiences of construction workers using the Health Hub, and the benefits these additional services will have on employee mental wellbeing. The project is being led by Dr Carla Toro, Associate Professor in Digital Healthcare Sciences at WMG.
The research will help the business understand and make recommendations to the sector on the challenges that the construction workforce experience, and the kinds of wellbeing initiatives that could have a positive impact on quality of life and mental health.
Organisations interested in joining the Health in Construction Consortium should contact Alisha Baig by email.
*Source of Research: 2019 CIOB (The Chartered Institute of Building) Research & Survey: Understanding Mental Health in the Built Environment.