Mental health concerns

Mental health concerns

Construction sector mental health concerns raised in new report

20 August 2020

A new report has revealed that almost a quarter of construction firms have had an employee absent due to mental health issues.

Work-related stresses, unrealistic targets and long hours are being cited by employers as the main reasons employees are experiencing mental health issues.

The report published by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), entitled Mental Health in the Construction Sector, contained the results of a survey conducted on 301 construction firms in Ireland by Empathy Research. It showed that mental health and wellbeing is a significant safety concern for firms.

Some of the work-related reasons employers cited as to why employees experienced mental health issues are as follows: 

  • 44% said general work-related stress
  • 29% said unrealistic work targets
  • 22% said long working hours
  • 16% cited the “macho” work culture where employees are uncomfortable seeking help
  • 15% cited a bullying culture
  • 9% said it was poor communication between bosses and staff

The director of safety for the CIF, Dermot Carey, said mental health “has huge implications” for safety while on site and that his organisation is “working with members to help employees in this area”. The CIF said it has produced a guidance note for the industry on supporting mental health among its workforce.

Other key findings include:

  • 60% of firms reported that the mental health of their employees was an issue in the last 12 months
  • 68% acknowledged that they would find it much easier to manage an employee who is physically sick than one with a mental health difficulty
  • 23% reported an employee absent from work in the last 12 months due to a mental health-related issue
  • 13% said that an employee presented for work but was “unfit for work due to a mental health-related issue”
  • Only 24% of construction firms surveyed had a formal mental health policy
  • 71% said they were managing staff mental health issues on a “ad-hoc” basis
  • 98% of firms acknowledged that staff mental wellbeing has important safety implications
  • 94% believe it is critically important the industry improves management of employees’ mental wellbeing
  • 68% of firms believe the sector has a serious issue with staff under-reporting issues with their mental health.

Psychologist Dr Emelina Ellis said mental wellbeing, psychosocial risks and work-related stress are among the most challenging occupational concerns for construction workers, and added that staff “may not be accessing much-needed support”, due to the under-reporting of problems.

The report makes a number of recommendations to employers in the construction industry, including setting realistic deadlines and ensuring clear communication between management and staff. Firms should also assign a senior person to be responsible for employees’ mental health and develop mental health policies and procedures, according to the new report.

The report also calls on the Government to “launch a targeted campaign” with the industry to promote mental health and wellbeing on construction sites and allocate resources “to an appropriate body to address the issue”.