Industry suicide report highlights need for more effective support and prevention

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Site Safe chief executive Brett Murray

The release last month of a report into suicides of construction industry workers has highlighted the need for all parts of the industry to work together to support the mental health of workers.

Site Safe chief executive Brett Murray says the report showed while there is no single cause, there are common factors in some cases the industry can work on, including work and financial stresses, and physical injuries.

He says Site Safe is already developing a mental health and well-being strategy based on the findings of the report which studied coroner reports from 2007 to 2017.

“To lose 300 people to suicide in our industry over 10 years is devastating,” Mr Murray says.

“It’s an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for their workers, and this includes protecting physical and mental well-being.

“There has been huge progress in workplace health and safety over the past 20 years, but we all need to play our part in shifting attitudes towards mental health.”

The workplace pressures mentioned in coroners’ reports included:

job insecurity or uncertainty,

stress related to running a business,

pressure to deliver under deadlines,

juggling responsibilities, and

dealing with an injury or illness affecting the ability to work.

One in eight (13%) of all cases listing workplace pressures included experiences of job insecurity.

Notably, people who were self-employed or business owners (11.3% of all cases) were twice as likely to have been affected by work-related factors than employees.

“The findings in this report outline some of the pressures on people working in the construction industry,” Mr Murray says.

“These pressures aren’t unique to the construction industry, but the solutions can be found by getting the industry set up to address these challenges and improve the mental health of its people.”

Mr Murray says the report aims to help industry, government and the public understand the risk factors and pressures that can contribute to suicide in the industry.

“Suicide prevention is something for all New Zealanders to work on, but the most effective suicide prevention initiatives are tailored to the environments and cultures of people at risk.

“In the case of the construction industry, pilots of programmes in New Zealand and Australia have found that initiatives targeted at people who work in the construction industry can prevent suicide, and improve mental health and well-being.”

The report was researched and written by Dr Kate Bryson, Janette Doblas, Dr Christopher Stachowski and Andy Walmsley. It was co-funded through the building research levy by the Building Research Association NZ (BRANZ) and Site Safe.

The full report can be downloaded at www.sitesafe.org.nz/guides–resources/research/sitesaferesearch.