OSHA has joined with a task force of construction industry employers, unions and educators to help raise awareness about the high rate of suicide among construction workers.
The task force seeks to highlight the work stresses seen as the causes of depression and suicidal thoughts and acts among workers in the construction industry, according to the Department of Labor.
5 times greater than rate of other work-related fatalities
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 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 construction workers are four times more likely to commit suicide than people in the general population.
“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,” Assistant Secretary for OSHA Doug Parker said. “Left unchecked, these stressors can affect mental health severely and lead to anxiety, depression, substance abuse and – in some cases – suicide.”
And the COVID-19 pandemic only made matters worse, researchers found. The CDC reported in August 2020 that a survey of the U.S. population revealed “a considerable one-year increase in symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder.”
Construction Suicide Prevention Week already under way
In 2020, a group of industry volunteers joined together to launch the first Suicide Prevention Week for construction workers. More than 68,000 workers in 43 states participated in the event in 2021, which was managed by a task force comprised of OSHA, Associated General Contractors, The Builders Association, leading construction companies and labor unions.
Suicide Prevention Week is already under way, having begun Sept. 5 and running until Sept. 9. The event calls for employers to pause work for a moment to share information and resources and urge employees to seek help if needed.
“Suicide can be prevented with professional help and assistance,” Parker said. “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.”
Where to find help, resources
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, formerly the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, is a federally funded project designed to improve crisis services and advance suicide prevention for U.S. residents. It provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The 988 lifeline is a national network of more than 200 local crisis centers, combining custom local care and resources with national standards and best practices.
For more information about OSHA’s mental health and crisis resources, click here.