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Council makes pledge on mental health in construction

Halton Borough Council has taken a major step in helping tackle mental health in the construction industry, which has an extremely high rate of suicide among young men.

Halton Borough Council has taken a major step in helping tackle mental health in the construction industry, which has an extremely high rate of suicide among young men.

The Council’s Executive Board has agreed that all future construction tender processes undertaken by the council will include a requirement for the main contractor to include a scored statement around mental health wellbeing amongst all staff and sub-contractors as part of the process. Halton is the first council in the country to take this approach.

According to the Health and Safety Executive in 2022/23, 45 building workers died because of work-based accidents. A figure that is clearly too high and, unsurprisingly, drives all public sector procurement exercises to insist on work-based Health and Safety statements as part of the process. However, what goes largely unreported and unnoticed is that the number of work-based accidents is dwarfed each year by the number of construction workers who commit suicide – 507 cases in 2022, which is almost 10 a week.

The Local Government sector commissions over £18 billion of construction a year, so can exercise some control over the sectors working practices. One way to begin to address the high number of suicides in the construction industry is to introduce this requirement that in all construction project tenders, bids must include a scored statement around mental health.

Council Leader, Cllr Mike Wharton said: “The suicide rates of young men working in construction are shockingly high and it’s time to do more. Asking contractors to consider the mental wellbeing of their staff, and making this a prerequisite of being awarded contracts, will help make inroads into the challenge of reducing the numbers of suicides and people experiencing mental health issues at work. We are the first council in the country to take this approach and I hope many more will follow.”

To find out more about the issues, Cllr Wharton and Chief Executive Stephen Young met with ex-Everton and England international footballer, Trevor Steven, Mental Health Ambassador for Causeway Technologies, which is leading a campaign aimed at improving the provision of mental health support in construction.

Trevor conducted a survey, visiting construction sites up and down the country between May 2022 and September 2023, speaking to more 1400 on-site workers. 

Using the subject of football to encourage workers to open up about their mental health, the survey found 56% of them experiencing mental health problems and 12% experiencing suicidal thoughts.

To find out more go to: https://www.causeway.com/about-us/mental-health

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