SSC’s VP of Administration gives presentation on Suicide Prevention in the Construction Industry at the Common Ground Alliance Conference on Excavation Safety

Suicide prevention is an especially important issue for the construction industry as it is ranked #1 in number of suicides compared to every other industry.

Michelle Walker, VP of Finance and Administration at Specialized Services Company recently hosted a session on Suicide Prevention in the Construction Industry at the Common Ground Alliance Conference on Excavation Safety. Ms. Walker stressed the importance of understanding the construction industries unique risk factors, how to identify warning signs, and the need for advanced leadership training for field managers. Mental health and suicide prevention is the next frontier in safety and risk management culture in the construction industry. 

The construction industry has several unique risk factors that contribute to the unusually high rate of suicides.  

  • Tough guy culture/mentality
  • Promotion of field supervisors without leadership training
  • High pressure work environment with low margins for error
  • Crew members who experience family separation and isolation with travel
  • Sleep disruption and sleep deprivation due to changing shifts
  • Seasonal layoffs and end of project furloughs
  • Tolerant culture of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Chronic pain due to the demanding physical nature of work
  • Access to fire arms or other lethal means while on the job site or at home

It is also important to identify and address the following warning signs early on before the possibility of suicide increases. 

  • Workplace performance issues
    • Decreased self-confidence, problem-solving ability, and productivity
    • Increased tardiness, conflicts among co-workers, near hits, incidents, and injuries.
  • Behavioral issues
    • Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
    • Increased drug or alcohol use (self-medicating)
    • Talking about feeling trapped, wanting to die, being a burden, or feeling hopeless or helpless
    • Appearing sad or depressed most of the time, and withdrawing from regular activities
    • Extreme mood swings
    • Sleeping too much or unable to sleep

Lastly, it’s important to train field managers on the risk factors, warning signs, and ways to address potential mental health concerns. Managers should be trained to check in and communicate with employees in a professional and personable manner. Companies should be equipped to mobilize additional resources, build trust, offer treatment recommendations, provide reasonable accommodations, allow for time off for counseling, assist with job reassignment, teach life skills, and generally be able to provide mentorship, and empower and support employees.

Ms. Walker hopes that construction company owners and executives will better understand how to prevent suicide.

Explore the beginnings of a movement to build a zero suicide industry at the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention website, http://www.preventconstructionsuicide.com, and on social media at #SuicidePreventionCFMA

The Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention has partnered with Screening for Mental Health to create a screening portal for those in the construction Industry. Available through November, this program is completely anonymous and confidential, and immediately following the brief questionnaire you will see your results, recommendations, and key resources. Take A Screening Today.