• The silent killer on Australian construction sites
The silent killer on Australian construction sites
09 Oct, 2019, No Comment

Summary: The construction industry’s number one killer isn’t asbestos, electrical hazards, structural collapses or faulty equipment – in fact it isn’t any of the common workplace incidents you might be thinking of.....

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Suicide, by a long way, is taking more lives than any other occupational health and safety hazard.

Construction workers are six times more likely to die by suicide than through a workplace accident.

 A 2017 report by Mates in Construction revealed 469 construction workers died from suicide between 2001 to 2015 in WA alone.

Across Australia, 21 per cent of workers in the construction industry were shown to have had a mental health condition.

They’re confronting statistics, and it’s a confronting reality for anyone associated with the sector.

The FIFO factor

If you’re a fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) trade worker, you’re even more at risk of developing a mental health condition.

 A WA Government-funded report released in December last year confirmed widely held views that a high-percentage of FIFO workers are having to cope with mental demons.  

Out of 3000 FIFO workers who participated in the research, 33 per cent experienced high levels of psychological distress compared to 17 per cent for non-FIFO workers.

The why and how
Apart from working incredibly long hours in strenuous conditions, construction workers are susceptible to anxiety and depression for a number of reasons.

We all know tradies and labourers are tough buggers, but it’s that mindset which can actually work against them when it comes to mental health.

Findings from a 2017 Biomed Central research paper revealed stoicism and stigma were both barriers to workers seeking help.

Males in particular, are less likely to seek treatment from a qualified health professional for a mental health problem.

There are also external factors which affect construction workers more than employees in other professions.

According to a University of Melbourne report, each time Australia goes through a difficult economic period, the construction industry is one of the first to feel the financial pressure.

During the 2007 global financial crisis the suicide rate among Australian construction workers rose ‘considerably higher’ than people employed in other occupations.

Industry fights back

While governments, support services and health professionals continue the fight against this major public health issue, there are private operators within the construction industry working hard to turn things around.

WesTrac is one WA business pulling its weight.

One of the world’s largest Caterpillar dealers is now not only synonymous for its yellow Cat® trucks, but also for providing strong support networks right across its business.   

WesTrac offers all team members and their families access to a free employee assistance program (EAP) which provides proactive and preventative counselling to improve personal wellbeing.

“We’ve learned that half the challenge is getting people to ask for help, so we’ve tried to make it as easy as possible,” WesTrac People and Culture General Manager Tanya Eales said.

“Most companies have an EAP in the background that has very little uptake. The point of difference for WesTrac is that we made our EAP a significant area of focus.”

Through its bespoke ‘Built By Us’ program, WesTrac is driving a culture of openness, accountability and ownership.

The end objective is to make WesTrac a safer, more productive and more enjoyable place to work – and so far the results have been very positive, according to Ms Eales.

The approach makes complete sense too, because there’s no point having well-developed infrastructure and a mass of machinery when the people behind them aren’t at their best.


Michael Roberts, 8/10/2019, mentalhealth.thewest.com.au/oct-2019/the-silent-killer-on-australian-construction-sites/?utm_source=TheWest&utm_medium=article&utm_campaign=brandedcontent&utm_term=article&utm_content=brandedcontent

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