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Construction’s Biggest Killer



Here’s a shocking statistic: two people from the UK construction industry commit suicide every day. In 2021, 507 construction workers took their own lives, according to the Office for National Statistics which covers England and Wales. This was one of the facts that Fred Mills, founder of construction-positive media channel The B1M, chose to highlight in the launch of a new campaign which aims to move mental health up construction’s agenda.


Through a dedicated website, getconstructiontalking.org, and with a two-video series called Uncovering Construction’s Biggest Killer, Mills’ goals are to raise awareness and raise funds for a raft of established construction mental health charities. In the videos, Mills talks about his own battles with depression in the hope that it will encourage others to open up too.


The launch event for Mills’ Get Construction Talking campaign was on 12 July and included a roundtable discussion with young construction manager Logan Price, who also talks about his mental health struggles in the video series, and design engineer Yewande Akinola, who has worked for organisations including Thames Water, Arup and Laing’O Rourke. The campaign, which The B1M is running in partnership with Procore Technologies, has also paid for a series of adverts across London Underground.


Mills believes that mental health – like health and safety issues on site – are everyone’s responsibility. And as the campaign’s title suggests, he urges people to check in on colleagues and friends if they appear a bit ‘off’ for any reason. His message is that this is a grass-roots issue.


However, Akinola suggested that there are more deep-rooted issues that need to be addressed. She spoke of construction’s terrible profit margins and a historic cut-throat culture, long hours and constant pressures that prevent people from living balanced lives.


Speaking at the launch event, she said: “What we need to do, in this transformational period that I feel the construction industry is in, is really start to unpack all of those inherent challenges…and say that the fact that this is the root cause means that we need to completely rethink what the structure of our industry looks like.”


This view seems to be borne out by findings from the Australian construction industry where construction health charity Mates has been operating for 14 years. Mills interviews Mates CEO Chris Lockwood in his video series who says that people who work in roles where they have lower levels of control are at a higher risk of dying from suicide.


Lockwood also comments that long working hours means that maintaining social contacts outside work is difficult and that the stop-start nature of project-based working leads to breaks in earnings and worries over household finances. There’s a tension between these two factors: companies who employ people on the books often have to send them further afield to work on different projects, whereas hiring people for specific jobs means they travel less and have shorter days but no job security.


At Thermal Road Repairs, we fully endorse the Get Construction Talking ethos. At the same time, there needs to be higher-level conversations too about the structural causes of what Mills calls this ‘silent pandemic’.


As Procore CEO Tooey Courtemanche commented at the launch, if two people were dying every day from falls from height in construction, there would rightly be horror and action. Mills wants the same response to suicide and to poor mental health.

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Thermal Road Repairs is a green technology company which supplies systems to improve the quality, cost and time efficiency of road repairs and paving – at a far lower environmental cost than traditional methods. It invests significantly in R&D, to create new technologies and to continuously improve existing ones.


Thermal Road Repairs: Decarbonising the asphalt repair industry.

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