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CALL FOR ACTION ON CONSTRUCTION WORKER SUICIDE

Union urges construction industry reform to reduce high suicide rates

Construction union Unite is calling on the construction industry to take radical action to reduce the elevated rate of suicide among the workforce following new analysis by the Office for National Statistics.

Suicide is the leading cause of death in England in adults below the age of 50. Past research shows that some occupations are at particularly high risk. This latest report describes recent analysis of deaths from suicide in different occupational groups among those aged 20 to 64 years.

The analyses are based on deaths registered in England between 2011 and 2015. Suicide was defined using the National Statistics definition which includes both intentional self-harm and injury or poisoning of undetermined intent, based on the coroner’s findings.

Main points for the construction industry
  • Overall – there were 18,998 suicides in men and women aged between 20 and 64 years between 2011 and 2015, which constitutes a rate of around 12 deaths for every 100,000 people per year; for around 7 in 10 (13,232) of these suicides, an occupation was provided at the time of death registration;
  • Skills Effect – males working in the lowest-skilled occupations had a 44% higher risk of suicide than the male national average; the risk among males in skilled trades was 35% higher;
  • Low-Skilled Male Labourers – the risk of suicide among low-skilled male labourers, particularly those working in construction roles, was 3 times higher than the male national average;
  • Skilled Trades – for males working in skilled trades, the highest risk was among building finishing trades; particularly, plasterers and painters and decorators had more than double the risk of suicide than the male national average; and
  • Managers etc. – individuals working in roles as managers, directors and senior officials – the highest paid occupation group – had the lowest risk of suicide. Among corporate managers and directors the risk of suicide was more than 70% lower for both sexes.
Construction needs to tackle the macho culture

The Unite union adds that research has found that major factors which can put people at risk of suicide include low pay, low job security and wider socio-economic characteristics. All of which are potentially major factors in construction.

Unite acting general secretary, Gail Cartmail, said:

“These figures are truly disturbing and demonstrate that sadly the majority of construction employers are failing in their duty of care to their workforce. This is the latest evidence that the industry’s hire and fire culture is fundamentally unhealthy and is a major factor in these terrible and needless tragedies.

Until the industry re-organises its approach to its workforce then it is not going to tackle the underlying causes of suicide in construction. Construction needs to tackle the macho culture where workers who talk about their feelings or mental health issues are too often considered to be ‘weak’.

Unite is fully prepared to work with any employer large or small who is prepared to do the right thing and tackle mental health issues and the risk of suicide in construction.

Mates in Mind

Mates in Mind is a charitable programme to improve and promote positive mental health in construction.

The website provides information about Mates in Mind and helps point users in the right direction for help with Mental Health.

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