According to an August 2021 press release from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), while the hazards most often associated with workplace deaths in the U.S. construction industry (such as falling, being struck by or crushed by equipment or other objects, or suffering electrocution) are well-known, a new report finds that suicide is another killer that is “taking lives at an alarming rate.”
In 2020, according to the DOL, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that men working in construction have one of the highest suicide rates compared to other industries.
“Their rate of suicide is about four times higher than the general population,” stated the press release.
What are some of the reasons for this rate? “Work-related stress can have severe impacts on mental health and without proper support may lead to substance abuse and even suicide,” said Jim Frederick, deputy assistant secretary for OSHA. “Workers in construction face many work-related stressors that may increase their risk factors for suicide, such as the uncertainty of seasonal work, demanding schedules and workplace injuries that are sometimes treated with opioids.”
While the CDC continues its research to understand the disparity, the DOL reported that OSHA has formed a task force comprised of industry members, unions and educators, with the goal of raising awareness about the various types of stress that can push construction workers into depression and toward suicide. It will also encourage employers in the construction industry to share and discuss resources with their workers.
“Like many workplace fatalities, suicides can be prevented,” said Billie Kizer, OSHA’s deputy regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo. “We encourage employers to use all available resources, familiarize themselves with the problem and learn to recognize the warning signs of depression. We also urge workers to seek help if they feel overwhelmed or overcome by a loss of hope.”
OSHA’s task force also called on the industry to take part in a weeklong Suicide Prevention Safety Stand-Down, which took place September 6–10, to raise awareness about the unique challenges construction workers face. The stand-down was meant to coincide with September being National Suicide Prevention Month. In 2020, over 5,000 people participated in the Suicide Prevention Safety Stand-Down.
If you or a loved one are struggling with negative thoughts or suicidal ideation, there are resources to help. Call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 for free, confidential help.