Suicide: The Silent Killer of the Construction Industry

Suicide is a worldwide problem that plagues certain industries such as construction.  Suicide is the tenth highest cause of death in the world and the second highest cause of death for men 25-54.  Despite these numbers, suicides in the construction industry were largely unheard of prior to a 2012 CDC report that finally shed light on the expanding problem.

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Construction has the second highest rate (53.3) of suicide (second only to farming), and the highest gross number of suicides among any industry.  People who work in high-risk occupations like construction are 1.5 times more likely to commit suicide.

 

There are a number of suicide risk factors that come along with construction jobs, such as:

 

Demographics

The construction force consists mainly of middle-aged white men, who are the highest risk demographic for suicide.  This synonymy can account for a large part of the high statistics but still leaves a large part unexplained.  There are many other aspects of the construction industry that creates risk for suicide.

 

High-risk situations

Construction workers spend time in life threatening situations such as dealing with dangerous equipment and being at high elevation.  Dealing with these situations every day creates a sense of indifference about life or death.

 

Access to the means

Construction workers have access to extreme heights, which creates a means by which to commit suicide.  Workers sometimes commit suicide on the job, in front of their coworkers.

 

Culture of substance abuse

Construction workers often abuse drugs and alcohol not only because of their levels of stress and anxiety from the job but also to medicate physical pain that comes from heavy labor.  More than 15% of construction workers have abused drugs or alcohol or used prescription medications.

 

Tough Guy mentality

The construction industry has a fast paced suck it up and gets it done mentality that makes workers feel as though their employers only care about the work and not their well-being.  This environment causes struggling workers to bottle up their emotions for fear of being shamed or ignored.

 

Nature of the work

Construction jobs provide high stress even aside from the dangerous situations it brings.  The jobs are often seasonal, and companies possess high turnover rates.  Workers are often stressed about providing for themselves and family and are always worried about losing their job.

 

All of these things are contributors to the high number of suicides in the construction industry.

 

How do we prevent this?

There is no denying that suicide has become a global problem, but change has to start from somewhere.  Many companies strive for 100% safety of their workers; Suicide should be no exception.

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Here are some steps the construction industry can take to create a real 100% safety standard for their company as well as the industry:

 

The best way to prevent suicides in the construction industry is to change the industry itself.  Construction companies must shift their focus from caring solely about the work to genuinely caring about the well-being of their employees.  To modify this value-set, the leaders must fully adopt this as a priority, and communicate its importance to others.  They must provide stress relief resources to all workers and communicate how they can be utilized.  When a new employee starts, he should be matched up with a mentor who can provide him not only help and knowledge on the job but also provide emotional support.

 

People in a company should be trained to look for warning signs of suicide and be trained on how to take steps to confront that person.  Often, a coworker notices that something is wrong with somebody else, but does not know how to recognize the characteristics as suicidal, or does not know how to confront the person in a way that will be helpful.

 

Every company in the construction industry must work together to combat suicide.  An organization known as the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention has created a platform to do so.  This alliance encourages all construction firms to join together to share resources and initiatives among each other to raise awareness and involvement toward alleviating this issue.

 

Suicide CAN be prevented and CANNOT be ignored.  Be sure that your company is at the front-lines in combating this issue. Take the necessary steps within your company and create a true 100% safety standard.

 

Resources:

NH Business Review – CDC: Construction workers near highest risk for suicide

Construction Dive – Suicides in Construction

Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention

 

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Posted in Industry News.