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Building Products January 2018

SPECIAL REPORT JANUARY 2018 | BUILDING PRODUCTS 51 mentioned absolutely nothing to anyone at work about their problems. In a largely maledominated industry, opening up about feelings can be scary, embarrassing or considered a sign of weakness for some. While the stigma of mental health in the UK is, very slowly, starting to fade, with increasing rhetoric surrounding funding for mental health services and the issues sufferers face, we are still a long way off. The mind-set of employees and managers with regard to mental health and stress isn’t going to change overnight and encouraging an industry that struggles to ask for help to share its problems is no mean feat. While it’s well known that stress causes elevated levels of sickness absence and staff turnover, the broader impacts of stress on employee health may be surprising. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found low-skilled male construction workers were 3.7 times more likely than average to take their own lives. For example, a male plasterer was 2.6 times more likely to take his own life than an equivalent man working in a production line environment. Stress is the second biggest health complaint in a workforce, behind musculoskeletal problems. It can cause unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking and heavy drinking, which, of course, can lead to increased risks of a host of additional health problems. Recent studies also suggest that there are links to type 2 diabetes. Employers have a responsibility to provide a healthy and safe working environment in line with the statutory requirements set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. The duty covers carrying out and monitoring a risk assessment in the workplace, including the prevalence of stress. Creating a positive and open working environment will not only benefit employees; organisations are likely to see an increase in motivation and productivity, a more effective work-life balance, reduced absence, fewer risks of long-term illnesses and staff who recover more quickly when they do fall ill. All this means significant improvements in staff morale and substantial cost savings. It’s a complex and challenging task that lies ahead but there are small, significant steps that we can all take to encourage an open dialogue and support those seeking help. The first step is to evaluate the extent of stress within an organisation, which can be influenced by a number of factors, such as excessive workloads, weak management and negative work cultures. As part of the evaluation, a risk assessment, analysis of absence data and a staff survey should be completed. Policies should set out the responsibilities of staff, as well as all employees, on the steps that an organisation should take to mitigate stress. Staff training can help to set the tone for all employees and is a good way to start encouraging the conversation around stress and mental health, while showing that an organisation takes the subject seriously and has the tools to address any issues. Health and safety is compromised by the presence of stress on-site, yet it’s an issue that is kept secret by a lot of employees. While these reports are insightful, they expose the realisation that, as an industry, we’re far from being able to claim we are properly managing stress on site. But we can use this information to educate companies about the seriousness of the knock-on effects of stress and prove to individuals that their mental health is important to their bosses. www.essentialskillz.com In a largely maledominated industry, opening up about feelings can be scary


Building Products January 2018
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