May is Mental Health Awareness Month across North America and an issue that impacts our industry sector particularly hard.
Of the many issues faced throughout the past few years with the pandemic, perhaps the least anticipated but most important one is mental health. Studies now show that nearly 81% of workers face some form of burnout or mental health issue, and 68% of employees say their daily work has been interrupted by these challenges.
But even before the pandemic, the demands and unique working conditions found in the construction industry sector including but not limited to high stress and high physical demands, competitive environments, and seasonal layoffs have created environments where mental health is impacted disproportionately within the construction industry compared to the national average.
ICBA reports 33% of labourers in skilled trades report poor mental health, with risks of suicide seven times greater for those working in construction than the national average.
Locally, a BC Coroners Service report found that approximately 55 percent of worker overdoses were people employed in construction or transportation, noting a variety of contributing factors:
- Construction workers, who generally do not have paid sick days, perform hard physical work and suffer more on-the-job injuries than many other occupations;
- Construction workers are prescribed opioid painkillers to manage their symptoms more frequently than other occupations;
- Construction remains a male-dominated industry and men are less likely to talk about mental health issues or substance use problems because of stigma;
- Substance use is higher among young men.
All the above, and more, can impact a person’s mental stability. These effects on an individual’s well-being are only compounded within a work culture that prides itself on “toughness.”
At the same time, demands on the industry are increasing with one in five workers set to retire in the next decade. There is also a cultural shift happening on the job site, with young women and foreign workers being encouraged to enter the industry creating new social norms.
There is limited data on mental health issues among women and minority groups in the construction industry, however, a study by the Institute for Work and Health in 2019 found that female workers in construction had higher levels of psychological distress than male workers, with 25% of female workers reporting high levels of distress compared to 19% of male workers.
As the industry aims to create healthy work environments and address mental wellness challenges, new systems and protocols are required to ensure healthy, safe work environments for everyone. Mental illness impacts us all.
So, how does mental health impact our industry? Statistics on the financial impact of mental health and substance abuse issues in the construction industry specific to BC are reported as:
- Lost productivity: According to a report by the Construction Industry Rehabilitation Plan, absenteeism and presenteeism (attending work while not fully functional due to mental health issues) cost the BC construction industry an estimated $670 million per year.
- Absenteeism and turnover: A study conducted by the BC Construction Safety Alliance found that absenteeism and turnover rates were higher among construction workers who reported high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Workplace injuries: Substance abuse has been identified as a risk factor for workplace accidents and injuries in BC’s construction industry.
- Medical expenses: Employers may incur costs related to medical expenses associated with mental health and substance abuse issues in BC, including treatment, medication, and hospitalization.
- Legal costs: Employers in BC may also face legal costs related to workplace accidents or injuries caused by employees with mental health or substance abuse issues.
Mental health is an issue that impacts everyone. The industry is making strides to change the culture with initiatives like Builders Code, and BCCWITT’s Be More than A Bystander. BIV provides a good summary of industry initiatives including the Construction Industry Rehabilitation Plan (CIRP), a harm reduction program that provides mental health and substance use (MHSU) services to the 40,000 members of BC Building Trades and the Construction Labour Relations Association of BC; and RE-MIND, a collaboration of the BC Construction Safety Alliance (BCCSA) and Work to Wellness Rehabilitation Inc., is working with the goal of improving construction workers’ access to mental health information and services, noting ICBA named former Vancouver Canucks goaltender Corey Hirsch as its Workplace Wellness Ambassador.
SAVE THE DATE!
Recognizing mental health impacts everyone, HAVAN is hosting a seminar ‘Let’s Talk Mental Health in the Construction Industry‘, on Tuesday, June 13 from 8am – 11:30am. The focus will be on supporting our members and your employees around the issues of mental health. Featuring ICBA’s Workplace Wellness Ambassador, Corey Hirsch, plus Mitch Hermansen, Director, Development Movember.com, and Jelissa De Torres, Secretary – BC Tradeswomen Society, Carpenter Apprentice, Welder, Entrepreneur and Co-Founder, Tools to Empower, plus other guests, the seminar will provide space for understanding perspectives and responsibilities, and sharing resources to ensure employers and employees have the tools and strategies to support mental wellness and struggles. Registration will open later this week. Watch this space for the link, or check out https://members.havan.ca/events. Sponsorship opportunities are available. Please email Wendy@havan.ca
HAVAN continues to work with CHBA BC and CHBA to advocate for all levels of government to work together to address the challenges of the housing industry including zoning restrictions, density limits, and NIMBYism.
Looking to stay up-to-date on Metro Vancouver’s residential housing industry? Sign up for Ron’s weekly Monday Morning Briefing and other HAVAN emails here.
QUICK BITES …
- In 2022, asbestos was responsible for 61 of the 181 work-related deaths, the result of exposures that happened decades before. This article in the Tyee reviews government and industry initiatives noting last year, the B.C. government promised to impose new requirements on firms that specialize in asbestos abatement.
- A virtual public hearing is being conducted by WorkSafe BC on the proposed amendments to Part 6 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation relating to asbestos certification and licensing (May 9, 2023) and a public consultation on proposed Policy Item P2-59.03-1, Asbestos Abatement Licensing. Learn more here.
This consultation phase is an opportunity to provide feedback. Materials for the proposed amendments and policy item, as well as instructions on how to provide feedback and participate in the public hearing, can be viewed by clicking on this link. Written feedback for the proposed regulatory amendments and the policy item will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 10, 2023.
- GREEN SHEETS ON THE GO! HAVAN member Green Sheet Construction Data tracks the Metro Vancouver construction market. Their online searchable database provides clients with a powerful tool to see past, current, and future construction projects across the Lower Mainland. Visit Green Sheet Hot Tips to view this month’s featured projects.