The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) formally launched a powerful campaign late last year, Working Minds, which it intends to help tackle the issue of work-related stress and its impact on the mental health of construction workers across the UK.
It comes at a time when mental health charity Mind estimates that two in five workers saw their mental health worsen during the pandemic. As many as 17 million working days were lost in 2020 as a result of stress, anxiety or depression, reflecting the sizable impact poor mental health can have on the UK economy. Sectors such as construction are labour-intensive, and so absences due to mental health problems make it more sensitive to such disruption than others.
No longer invisible to the naked eye
Working Minds targets the construction as one of five core sectors in need of a fresh approach to the mental health of employees. As we reported in late 2021, mental health issues were identified as one of the prime causes of injury in the workplace last year. A majority experiencing mental health problems admitted their issues directly impacted their working lives.
As a regulator, HSE has organised to help identify key triggers of stress, remind employers of their legal requirements and help educate on how to manage risks in the workplace accordingly. Sarah Albon, HSE’s chief executive, claimed: Work-related stress and poor mental health should be treated with the same significance as risks of poor physical health and injury.”
Up until recently, HSE spot checks were carried out with the intention of identifying risks to workers more visible to the naked eye. However, the HSE has extended such spot checks to now include an aspect to spot checks which can identify signs of stress among workers. These spot checks, which are conducted unannounced thousands of times a year across the country, will now have the tools needed to help spot mental health risks among workers.
Such a move gives employers greater responsibilities to take active measures to critically assess and mitigate psychological risks to health on top of existing responsibilities regarding health and safety.
The Five Rs
Like any good campaign, Working Minds includes a memorable tool which serves as its very own Five-Rs:
- Reach out
- Make it Routine
The Five Rs are aimed specifically at small businesses and remain applicable to those in construction especially. Reaching out encourages employers and workers to communicate clearly if issues are brewing. Recognising is the means of spotting problems before they are allowed to fester. Respond pertains to taking active steps to lessen the impact of risks to mental health risks.
Reflection allows workers and employers alike to think clearly about how they behave in the workplace and what they can do to make the environment a safe space mentally for all. The final R, Routine, helps enshrine best practice in place, lessening the likelihood of problems arising in the future, making sure construction businesses are fit for purpose and dedicated to protecting the good mental health of their workers.
All in the mind
Hawksafe is encouraged to see efforts being made by the likes of the HSE to actively improve standards regarding how businesses handle mental health issues in the workplace. Working Minds is aimed at five sectors of the economy which hire an estimated total of six million people, including construction workers. However, as we know, mental health problems aren’t exclusively a problem for the individual but in a collective sense too, whether that’s impacting the colleagues, friends or family members of those experiencing difficulties.
We are proud to offer our very own Mental Health First Aid MHFA) courses to help construction businesses understand the importance of MHFA, how to identify risks in the workplace and how to provide assistance in the event of incidents occurring. Through resources such as our MHFA courses and campaigns such as Working Minds, the conversation about improving the mental health of UK workers should begin to permeate throughout the construction sector. Mental health might be all in the mind, but it doesn’t have to be invisible to the naked eye and neglected any longer.