US Department of Labor, industry leaders, stakeholders call on employers, workers to combat surge in construction worker suicides

First published by OSHA

Safety stand-downs planned for Suicide Prevention Week, Sept. 5-9

WASHINGTON – Construction workers often face some of their industry’s most serious dangers – such as falls from elevation, being struck or crushed by equipment or other objects, and electrocution – but recent studies suggest another occupational concern is lurking silently at U.S. worksites: worker suicides.

Box with text that reads 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
The 988 Suicide &; Crisis Lifeline is a direct connection – available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – to a national network of more than 200 local crisis centers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the suicide rate for men in construction and extraction was five times greater than the rate of all other work-related fatalities in the industry in 2018, and these workers are four times more likely to end their own lives than people in the general population.

To assist workers in an industry with one of the nation’s highest occupational suicide rates, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has joined a task force of construction industry partners, unions and educators to raise awareness of the work stresses seen as the causes of depression and the thoughts and acts of suicide among construction workers. In addition to alerting other stakeholders, the task force encourages industry employers to share and discuss available resources with their workers.

Coinciding with Construction Suicide Prevention Week, the task force is calling on construction industry employers, trade groups and other stakeholders to join OSHA’s Suicide Prevention Safety Stand-Down, Sept. 5-9, 2022. This week-long event seeks to raise awareness of unique mental health challenges construction workers face by asking employers to pause work for a moment to share information and resources and urge employees to seek help if needed.

“Construction workers cope with unique causes of stress, such as uncertain seasonal work; remote work and job travel that keeps workers away from home and support systems; long, hard days and completion schedules; and the job-related risks of serious injuries,” explained Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. “Left unchecked, these stressors can affect mental health severely and lead to anxiety, depression, substance abuse and – in some cases – suicide.”

The coronavirus outbreak and pandemic only worsened the problem, researchers found. In August 2020, the CDC reported a considerable one-year increase in symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder in a survey of the U.S. population.

Moved by their concern for a growing problem, a group of industry volunteers joined in 2020 to launch the first Suicide Prevention Week for construction workers. In 2021, more than 68,000 workers in 43 states registered to participate in Construction Suicide Prevention Week, managed by a task force comprised of OSHA, Associated General Contractors, The Builders Association, leading construction companies and labor unions.

“Suicide can be prevented with professional help and assistance,” Parker added. “OSHA encourages employers, industry associations, labor organizations and workers to use all available resources to understand the problem and the warning signs of depression before tragedy strikes.”

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a federally funded project designed to improve crisis services and advance suicide prevention for U.S. residents. Supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the  988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, formerly the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the 998 lifeline is a national network of more than 200 local crisis centers, combining custom local care and resources with national standards and best practices.

Review these OSHA mental health and crisis resources.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

Suicide Prevention Month: ‘Employers can play an important role’

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Washington — September is Suicide Prevention Month, and OSHA is urging employers to actively promote available resources to all workers.

The month includes National Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 4-10) and Construction Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 5-9).

Suicide is a leading cause of death among working-age adults in the United States, OSHA says. Additionally, 2 out of 5 U.S. adults have a mental health issue or substance use disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Work-related stress can have an impact on mental health and, without proper support, could lead to substance abuse and even suicide,” OSHA says. “Workers in the construction industry are generally at a higher risk for suicide due to work-related stress factors including seasonal/temporary employment, demanding work schedules and serious injuries, which are sometimes treated with opioids. Not addressing the underlying stressors or injuries can exacerbate mental health symptoms and may increase the risk of substance abuse or even suicide.

“By demonstrating their commitment to a safe and healthy workplace, employers can play an important role in reducing stigma and promoting mental health. In return, they may experience benefits such as improved workplace safety, higher morale, increased productivity, reduced turnover and decreased operating costs.”

The agency’s Preventing Suicides webpage has resources on developing mental health and safety programs, so workers can get the help they need. Among the goals of these programs:

  • Strive to create a workplace environment that fosters open communication and a sense of belonging.
  • Implement a workplace safety and health program that proactively identifies and addresses hazards that could lead to injuries or illnesses.
  • Provide resources and programs that promote employee health and well-being, as well as support work-life balance.
  • Inform employees of resources and treatment services available for mental health and substance use disorders through employee assistance or health insurance programs, or in the community.
  • Provide accommodations and return-to-work assistance for employees seeking treatment or who are in recovery.

 

The webpage also has links to 60-second public service announcements in English and Spanish, posters, and links to additional resources.

“When you work closely with someone, you may sense when something is wrong,” OSHA says. “If you are concerned about a co-worker, talk with them privately and listen without judgment. Encourage them to get help. If someone is in crisis, stay with them and get help. If you believe a co-worker is at immediate risk of suicide, stay with them until you can get further help. Contact emergency services or call 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.”


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

Suicide in the Construction Industry: Breaking the Stigma and Silence

A suicide occurs every 12 minutes in the U.S. While these incidents touch every industry, one industry in particular has felt the impact of suicide in recent years – construction and extraction. A CDC study found that in 2012 and 2015, suicide rates were highest among males in the construction and extraction occupational group. Continue reading»