Overview: The construction industry has made significant progress in physical safety but faces a silent epidemic of mental health issues, including high suicide rates. Integrating mental health into safety practices involves regular toolbox talks, designated stand-downs, incorporating mental health first aid into training, visible reminders, leadership engagement, and continuous improvement efforts. By prioritizing mental health alongside physical safety, construction leaders can create a supportive work environment and combat the mental health crisis in the industry effectively.

The Mental Health Problem in Construction Industry

From improvements in hard hats to advanced harnessing systems, the construction industry has made significant strides in protecting the physical well-being of its workers. However, amidst the progress being made, there’s a silent epidemic that often goes unnoticed: mental health struggles.

According to the 2021 CDC report, the suicide rate in the construction industry for males is 56.0 per 100,000, considerably higher than the overall fatality rate from accidents and other causes in the construction sector, which is 12.3 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers. This indicates that the suicide rate is over four times higher than all other construction fatalities combined, underscoring a significant mental health crisis within the industry. This stark comparison highlights the need for comprehensive mental health support and proactive suicide prevention measures in construction settings.

Despite the magnitude of this issue, mental health concerns in construction are often swept under the rug, overshadowed by the immediate focus on physical safety. But what if we told you that by prioritizing mental health alongside physical safety, construction leaders can create safer, more supportive work environments for their teams? While regulations may not require mental health awareness training yet, companies focused on the health and safety of their employees do. In this blog, we’ll outline ways you can, too.

Integrating Mental Health into Construction Safety Practices

Safety Meetings and Toolbox Talks

Start each day or week with toolbox talks, including ones that address mental health topics such as stress management, communication skills, and the importance of adequate sleep for workplace safety. Visit our blog about mental health safety meetings for more information.

Safety Stand-Downs

Designate specific safety stand-downs to focus on mental health awareness. Use this time for in-depth discussions, encouraging questions, and dialogue around mental well-being. For guidance on planning and conducting these events effectively, consider using resources from the AGC of California’s Mental Health Initiative, such as their Mental Health Stand Down Toolkit, which provides templates and guidelines tailored for these critical conversations. More details and resources are available on their Planning Your Stand Down page.

Integrating Mental Health into Safety Training

Incorporate mental health first aid into standard safety training programs. Equip your team with the skills to recognize and respond to signs of mental distress effectively. Consider providing training such as QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer), which teaches individuals how to recognize the warning signs of suicide and intervene appropriately to help prevent it. By integrating mental health training into your safety programs, you empower your team to support each other’s well-being and create a safer, more supportive work environment.

Visible Reminders and Safety Signage

Include messages promoting mental health awareness alongside traditional safety signs. Posters in common areas can highlight key tips and support services.


Leadership Engagement and Leading by Example

Encourage leaders to lead by example in addressing mental health. By openly sharing their personal experiences with stress and mental health challenges, leaders can significantly reduce stigma and foster a culture of openness that encourages others to seek help. To further support this, you can reference detailed strategies and insights available in OSHA’s “Senior Manager Support Checklist,” which offers practical guidance for senior managers to enhance workplace mental health support effectively. View the detailed checklist from here.

Continuous Improvement and Feedback

To ensure the ongoing effectiveness of our mental health initiatives, it’s crucial to adopt a continuous improvement approach. Regularly solicit feedback through surveys and informal discussions to gauge the impact of mental health strategies on your team. Use this data to refine and adapt your approaches, ensuring they meet the evolving needs of your workforce.

Commit to Mental Health Safety

As we conclude this guide, remember that integrating mental health into safety practices is not a one-time effort but an ongoing commitment. By prioritizing mental health just as highly as physical safety, construction leaders can cultivate a supportive, resilient work environment. We encourage all stakeholders in the construction industry to commit to these practices and continuously seek ways to improve the mental well-being of their teams. Together, we can build a safer, healthier workplace for everyone.