The initiative between the Samaritans, Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) and CIBSE Patrons will takes its initial step with a jointly hosted seminar to be held in central London next month.
BESA chief executive Paul McLaughlin, who will chair the event, said that 80% of engineering services firms believe that workplace mental health will have a serious impact on their businesses over the next five to ten years.
This worrying statistic emerged from an occupational health survey carried out by BESA and the ECA, which also revealed that 31% of companies found on-site mental health issues “hard to manage”.
“Mental health is the forgotten health and safety issue,” said Mr McLaughlin. “As an industry, we have made impressive progress on workplace safety in the past 20 years, but on health – and mental health in particular – we still have a long way to go.”
Samaritans regional partnerships officer Will Skinner, who will lead an interactive session at the seminar, pointed out that the vast majority of calls received by the charity are from people who are not suicidal, but just desperately need to talk to someone about how they feel and why they are struggling to cope.
He added that everyone could play a part in helping work colleagues to deal with depression and suicidal feelings.
Callers to the Samaritans range from individual tradespeople to senior managers feeling the isolation of leadership. Many small and medium-sized firms are also said to be struggling to cope with stress created by tight deadlines and cash flow issues.
CIBSE Patrons chairman David Fitzpatrick pointed out that the impact of stress was apparent throughout the supply chain.
“For an industry that already has serious recruitment issues, tackling mental health has to be a priority,” he said.
“In order to make construction-related professions more attractive to a wider section of the population – particularly women, ethnic minorities and school leavers – we need to make sure we cover all aspects of worker wellbeing.”
“With workplace mental health now an established issue, the sector needs to work together to help contractors manage these issue,” commented ECA director of business Paul Reeve.
He added that unlike ensuring protection against physical health hazards, employees who face mental health challenges may be the least able to decide or follow the right course of preventative action, presenting additional challenges to firms.
The mental health seminar will take place at St Matthew’s Conference Centre, 20 Great Peter Street, London SW1P 2BU on Thursday July 21 at 5.00 pm. Attendance is free to members of BESA, ECA and CIBSE Patrons, who may bring a guest. Bookings can be made via this link.