The construction industry is four times more likely than any other industry to lose an employee to suicide. Take time to educate employees about the contributing factors, signs, and prevention during National Suicide Prevention Week, September 6-12.
The suicide rate in construction is 45.3/100,000 compared to the national average for other industries of 14.2/100,000. Based on these numbers, it is five times more likely that an employer will lose an employee to suicide than to what OSHA considers the fatal four: falls, electrocution, struck by, caught in/between.
For men between the ages of 25 and 54, suicide is the second biggest cause of death. Men in the
construction industry face the additional hardship from physical activity paired with a ‘tough guy’
culture that can make it more difficult to reach out and seek help.
Stress is one of the main contributors to the decline in mental health, and it can manifest in four ways: physical, emotional, intellectual, and personal well-being. Physical symptoms can present itself as rapid weight gain or weight loss, difficulty sleeping or fatigue. Emotional stress symptoms can come from feeling incompetent and cause irritability. Intellectual symptoms are often shown through procrastination or difficulty concentrating, and personal well-being stressors can mean isolation from friends and family or a loss of sense of humor.
These types of stress can exacerbate mental health issues and lead to depression and suicidal thoughts. Often, individuals choose to self-medicate and abuse both drugs and alcohol instead of seeking professional help, due in part to the stigma associated with mental health.
Stress factors common in the construction industry that can contribute to a decline in mental health:
In the workplace, it is important to know what resources are available to support employees’
psychological health, and where there are gaps in the system. Learn to recognize the signs of an at-risk employee and create a supportive environment where individuals aren’t afraid of being reprimanded.
Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP)
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
This Safety Flash was contributed by Dax Biederman, CHST, Trivent Safety Consulting in cooperation with SEAA’s Safety Committee. It is designed to keep members informed about ongoing safety issues and to provide suggestions for reducing risk. Best practices are gathered from a variety of sources. They may be more or less stringent than individual corporate policies, and are not intended to be an official recommendation from SEAA. Always get approval and direction from your company officers on any new practice or procedure as these best practices may not work for all situations. Everyone benefits when a worker avoids injury. Submit your ideas for Safety Flash to email@example.com.
2020 National Safety Stand-Down September 14-18
Fatalities caused by falls from elevation continue to be a leading cause of death for construction
employees, accounting for 320 of the 1,008 construction fatalities recorded in 2018 (BLS data). Those deaths were preventable. The National Safety Stand-Down raises fall hazard awareness across the country in an effort to stop fall fatalities and injuries.
Addressing falls in construction is the reason why each year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) holds a National Safety Stand-Down to prevent Falls in the Construction industry. OSHA encourages employers to take a break to focus on safety concerns surrounding falls from elevation. Stand-down events provide employers and workers the opportunity to talk about hazards, protective methods, and the company’s safety and health programs, goals, and expectations.
Last year, thousands of worksites participated in the campaign and the Stand-Down event reached over a million workers. OSHA invites employers to dedicate themselves yet again to the safety of their most valuable resource: their workers.
OSHA’s Stand-Down webpage offers information on conducting a successful event, and educational resources. Employers are encouraged to provide feedback after their events, and to obtain a personalized certificate of participation.
The National Safety Stand-Down is a joint effort between OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training.
To learn how you can participate in the Stand-Down, visit www.osha.gov/StopFallsStandDown.
Despite a major push for broad infrastructure funding in the U.S. House of Representatives, recent
disruptions to the U.S. economy will extend the current recession possibly into 2021. Fallout from
COVID-19, financial and equity market volatility, Federal Reserve emergency policies, and lower oil
prices are contributing to the uncertainty, FMI reports in its second-quarter Outlook.
“Based on the speed, breadth, and apparent lasting impacts of these various factors,” FMI is anticipating the current recession to continue through the remainder of 2020 and possibly into 2021, according to the report. Other factors include the uncertainty of the 2020 presidential election and social unrest.
“Depth and reach of these disruptions will remain under close watch,” stated the consulting firm.
Amid the uncertainty, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the $1.5 trillion Moving Forward Act, an infrastructure bill that would earmark funds for surface transportation, airport, school, housing, healthcare, energy, water, and broadband coverage. “However it also includes numerous anti-merit shop provisions opposed by Associated Builders and Contractors,” reports the organization.
“By requiring anti-competitive provisions, such as government-mandated project labor agreements and inflationary Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements, this bill will dissuade contractors from bidding on projects, drive up overall costs and exclude the overwhelming majority of America’s construction industry professionals who choose not to join a union,” maintains the ABC.
These measures would also have a devastating impact on small construction businesses that are seeking to recover from the ongoing health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19, ABC believes: “The path forward on repairing our nation’s infrastructure should be rooted in fair and open competition and equal opportunity, not policies that favor big labor and costly, ineffective federal mandates.”
Other issues cloud the construction industry’s economic outlook. Nonresidential construction spending declined 0.9 percent in May, based on U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by ABC. On a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, spending totaled $812.5 billion for the month, according to ABC. Private nonresidential spending declined 2.4 percent in May and public nonresidential construction spending increased 1.2 percent.
However, the Associated General Contractors reports that construction activity returned to pre-
coronavirus levels in 34 states, based on data on workers’ hours analyzed by Procore. An association survey found that only 8 percent of construction firms were forced to furlough or lay off workers in June while 21 percent report adding employees, compared to one-in-four firms letting workers go between March and May.
“But it is important to remember that construction activity typically increases quite a bit between March 1 and the end of May as the weather improves and more work gets underway,” Ken Simonson, AGC chief economist, commented. “Getting to March 1 levels is a sign of progress, but it doesn’t mean things are back to normal.”
Simonson added that the data show the severe toll the pandemic took on the construction industry. For example, 61 percent of firms report having had at least one project halted or canceled because of the pandemic. One in four firms report that construction materials shortages, caused by lock downs and trade disruptions, are causing delays on current projects. Meanwhile, the Procore data found that smaller firms experienced more severe declines in construction activity during the pandemic than larger firms.
AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson
AGC Survey June 18
Procore Construction Activity Index
ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu
FMI Construction Forecast
Two recent reports assess the occupational risks of the Coronavirus in construction as compared to other industries. Cody Charland, in a blog post for Safran Law Offices, Raleigh, N.C., reports that the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services found that “construction workers were listed in the third quartile for physical proximity to others (Avg. 62.3), yet first quartile for exposure to diseases (Avg. 8.3).” Another study by the World Economic Forum ranked construction above the average risk for contact with others, physical proximity, and exposure.
Though outdoor construction work offers natural advantages in preventing the spread of coronavirus, precautions still should be taken. Points of transmission which could cause present and future outbreaks remain, including shared tools, as well as common spaces such as outdoor toilets, job site trailers, and work vehicles.
According to Jordan Hollingsworth, Field Operations Manager, in a blog post for Safety Management Group, “Construction projects must develop and implement a Site-Specific Health and Safety Plan consistent with best practices. Every construction project involves unique characteristics and circumstances, so what is appropriate and feasible for each project may be different.”
While the CDC offers construction-specific guidelines, Hollingsworth shared some additional insight. Tailgate safety meetings, for example, should follow CDC guidelines limiting the number of people to 10 or should be executed via video briefings.
Charland also suggests monitoring site logistics. Deliveries should be planned with contact and cleaning protocols, choke points should be identified and barriers installed to limit physical access, and community food areas, like coffeepots and water dispensers, should be eliminated.
“Shared tools should be eliminated wherever possible and all tools should be cleaned regularly. Any
shared equipment (including tools and vehicles) should be disinfected before and after each use, with disinfectant wipes readily available,” says Charland, who also recommends aerial lifts be used by just one person at a time, unless additional PPE is worn.
The CDC reminds construction workers that cloth face coverings are NOT appropriate substitutes where masks or respirators are recommended or required. Cleaning and disinfecting should be done at the beginning and end of every shift and after anyone uses your vehicle, tools, or workstation. Employers should provide soap, clean running water, and materials for drying hands, or alcohol-based hand sanitizers at multiple stations, and install temporary or mobile handwashing stations with single-use paper towels, or provide a large (5+ gallon) bucket with a lid and tap for handwashing. Regularly clean and disinfect the tap and provide fresh clean water daily.
Finally, an article from EHS Today notes, “Few of the guidance documents tell you how to select or use disinfecting chemicals and methods.” The article by Neal Langerman with Advanced Chemical Safety attempts to fill that gap.
How Construction Compares to Other Industries with Coronavirus from Safran Law Offices
Best Construction Safety Practices for COVID-19 from Safety Management Group
What Construction Workers Need to Know about COVID-19 from CDC
Sanitizing and Disinfecting Your Business During the Pandemic from EHS Today
Connector magazine will publish a training directory in the Fall 2020 issue featuring training resources for employer of ironworkers in the categories of Aerial Device Operator, Fall Protection, Ironworker and Welding. To be included, organizations must provide services to the general public.
Only SEAA members qualify to receive a complimentary upgraded listing featuring their logo.
Inclusion in the training directory is free but subject to review and approval by Connector Media
Interested in advertising your training program? Contact Chris Harrison, Publisher, at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 660-287-7660.