Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building

More suicides in construction than any other industry

There were more suicides in construction than in any other profession in the five years to the end of 2015, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics.

The figures, which cover people in England aged between 20 and 64, showed there were 1,419 suicides by those working in skilled construction and building trades from 2011 to 2015. Of these, 1,409 were men and 10 were women.

This is more than three times the number of suicides by those working as corporate managers or directors and those working in sales occupations, and more than 10 times those working in health and social care.

Of the total 10,688 in-work suicides recorded by the ONS, those by skilled construction and building trades made up 13.2%.

Between 2011 and 2015, there were 1,047 suicides by those classified as working in construction and building trades; 351 by those working in building finishing trades; and 11 by those working as construction and building trades supervisors.

The industry has recently taken a lead on combating the issues of menatal health in the construction indsutry with the launch of Mates in Mind, which is aiming to help 100,000 workers in its first year.

The initiative is aimed at stripping away the stigma of mental health issues in the indsutry and get people talking openly about their probelsm or issues they may be having. It is being supported by core partners including charities Samaritans, Mind and Mental Health First Aid England.

Others in the industry have set up their own programmes including former contractors Andy Dean and Dave Lee who are on their own mission to make construction calmer, happier and ultimately safer.

To coincide with this new ONS data, Public Health England (PHE), Business in the Community and Samaritans have joined forces to produce toolkits for employers on how to prevent suicide and how to minimise the impact when it does happen.

The toolkits include advice on steps employers can take to prevent suicides and support them and their teams when responding to the death of an employee caused by suicide.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, said: “Suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 50, and more women are taking their own lives each year. Death by suicide is never inevitable, but for a person who is overwhelmed by feelings and events that appear insurmountable, it can seem like the only answer.

“I urge all employers, large or small, public or private sector to treat mental health as seriously as physical health. Early action can stop any employees reaching a desperate stage. Simple actions can make a huge difference – talking with a manager or colleague can help people get the support they need, and ultimately save lives.”

The suicide prevention toolkit for employers can be downloaded here. 

Image: Ben Goode/


Problem is, mental health is still taboo in a lot of companies and it's still career suicide to even broach the subject. Attitudes are changing though, and initiatives such as Mates in Mind will help, but I fear that we are still 10-20 years away from significantly improving the situation. As the younger and more switched on workforce gains seniority I'd imagine things will gradually change, but until then it'll remain something people struggle through alone.

  • 20th Mar 2017, at 01:54 PM
  • Scott

I think part of the issue is that poor procurement can put a strain on the project team to deliver on time and on budget. The best estimators come second...most jobs are won because someone has made a mistake... so they are off to a bad start from the beginning, Main contractors pass this down the line to subcontractors and it ultimately ends up on the shoulders of the man at the coal face who is under terrible pressure to complete on time for a much reduced cost, and who more often than not is working away from home weeks on end because he has to work weekends....CDM has part to play the project adequately resourced? more often than not it is not, as it is the cheapest tender that usually gets the work, clients and project managers have a duty to ensure that the the project is adequately resourced and not just accept the lowest tender.

  • 20th Mar 2017, at 06:34 PM
  • Richard

A study carried out in South Africa and published in 2016 identified the top 5 work demands as being the most stressful. Whilst this study does not represent the UK. I get the feeling that similar results would be achieved if the study was carried out in the UK.
1. Meeting critical time constraints.
2.Lack of cooperation from project stakeholders.
3.Long hours worked.
4.Meeting cost constraints.
5.Skewing of work-life balance.

My own experience of working with people in a managerial position is to get to know your people(You don't need to be friends) and gain their trust so that they know they can at least come and speak to you if they are having a problem. You may not be able to resolve the many and varied issues that impact on people but at least you can empathise and sometimes that can make a big difference. It's a skill that only comes with experience as you have to balance being interested but not nosey/interfering. You must also come across as being genuinely interested or they will loose trust and clam up even more.

  • 20th Mar 2017, at 08:40 PM
  • Rod

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