A January 2023 report from Dodge Construction Network, produced in partnership with Infotech and Hexagon, provides the results of a quarterly survey of civil contractors and engineers regarding, among other things, mental health on the job. Only 34% of those surveyed reported that their employees had adequate access to help for mental health issues. Only about one-third of respondents indicated their companies offer employee assistance programs or even provide information about where employees can access mental health assessments online.
In 2020, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that one in five adults (52.9 million) in the U.S. lives with a mental illness. Furthermore, the CDC considers construction workers at a higher risk of suicide than workers in most other industries. These statistics clearly indicate a need for mental health support in the workplace.
Additionally, because numerous studies have found that mental health disorders are not only costly, but more expensive to deal with than heart disease, cancer and other illnesses—often due, in large part, to productivity loss—the International Organization for Standardization began creating a framework standard for mental health in 2018. Named ISO 45001, Occupational Health and Management Systems, it covers the promotion of well-being at work.
Previous wellness programs for the workplace focused primarily on fitness and nutrition, but with the discovery that psychological issues have become the leading cause of safety accidents, the ISO has taken steps to increase awareness of the link between mental health, occupational health, and safety.
Ken Clayman, senior lead technical specialist at Booz Allen Hamilton, a global U.S. management and information technology consulting firm, is part of an advisory group working on the development and enhancement of ISO 45001. He says, “Workers dealing with psychosocial issues are often not as focused on their work. They are distracted and suffer a lack of concentration.” That can lead to physical injury, illness from a weakened immunity system, stroke or heart attack caused by stress, or aggression.
A recent issue of Dodge’s The Civil Quarterly presented new data from the January report about the attempts made by civil construction companies to address mental health. The conclusion centers on the need for more mental health training for company leaders. Those surveyed ranked training programs and recognizing warning signs for depression and suicide as the most effective ways to improve mental health in the industry.
Typical signs that a person is suffering from poor mental health include unkempt appearance, irritability, mood swings, frustration, anger, absenteeism, fear and anxiety. These can sometimes result in decreased productivity, isolation or substance abuse. For example, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine shared the results of a study revealing that employees with depression reported productivity levels at 70%. According to NIMH, 80% of people with depression report some level of functional impairment.
In the Dodge survey, 36% of civil contractors reported improvements rather than worsening conditions (15%) in mental health/state of mind at their organizations over the past five years.
About The Author
Lori Lovely is an award-winning writer and editor in central Indiana. She writes on technical topics, heavy equipment, automotive, motorsports, energy, water and wastewater, animals, real estate, home improvement, gardening and more. Reach her at: [email protected]