Building services engineering sees growing need to manage occupational mental health
Eight in 10 building engineering services firms (80 per cent) say they anticipate workplace mental health will have a greater impact on their business over the next five to 10 years, according to a new survey from the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and Constructing Better Health.
Less than one per cent of survey respondents suggested that on-site occupational stress would actually become less important in the next ten years, while around one in five (20 per cent) believe its significance will remain the same.
Of the firms who reported that they manage occupational health overall, nearly six in 10 (56 per cent) incorporate plans to tackle potential mental health issues, such as occupational stress. Around 3 in 10 respondents (31 per cent) said they found on-site mental health ‘hard to manage’, despite recognising it as a potential occupational health issue.
According to ECA Director of Business Paul Reeve:
“This sector-wide survey confirms that workplace mental health is an established issue, and that companies expect it to become a more significant challenge in the years ahead.
“Unlike ensuring protection against physical health hazards, employees who face mental challenges may be least able to decide or follow the right course of preventative action. As such, managing occupational mental health can present additional challenges to companies.
“The ECA looks forward to working closely with members and partners across our sector to develop advice and tools that will help contractors to manage these issues effectively”.
Tim Rook, BESA Director of Technical, comments:
“Mental health is a growing issue for our industry as operatives and business owners regularly face highly pressurised work environments; tight deadlines and slim profit margins, all of which have the potential to build up stress levels.
“Many feel there is no room to fail – or even pause for breath – and just ‘soldier on,’ keeping their gradually deteriorating mental state to themselves.
“There is not enough training to equip people in our sector with the necessary communication and caring skills – and the very nature of mental illness makes it difficult for a technical worker to confront. This is something we, as an industry, must get to grips with as a matter of urgency.”
Gerard McLaughlin, Operations Director of Constructing Better Health, adds:
“Occupational mental health is a universal issue. However, in a high stress sector like construction, the mental pressures can be a burden and dangerous. The stigma to talk openly about it is a hindrance to understanding and developing the support required.
“This is why it’s so important to encourage and offer guidance to companies and their occupational health practitioners so they can provide the best service for their employees. We also need to remove the stigma of talking about mental health and inspire employees to seek support.”
Some 30 per cent of the almost 400 firms who responded to the survey said that occupational mental health is a ‘significant’ hazard (although not necessarily a risk, due to the application of risk management measures), with a further 55 per cent recognising it as a ‘minor hazard’ to on site workers. Overall, respondents said that only dust and fibres, noise and manual handling were greater on-site hazards to employees than workplace mental health.