Mates in Mind to target 100,000 workers in first year

26 January 2017

A new initiative aimed at combating mental health issues in the construction industry today set out goals to help 100,000 workers in its first year.

Speaking at the official launch of Mates in Mind yesterday, Mike Robinson, chief executive of the British Safety Council (BSC), said he hoped the scheme reaches 75% of the industry by 2025, aligning with the government’s industrial strategy.

The launch took place at the Health in Construction Leadership Group (HCLG) 2017 summit in London. Founded by HCLG and the BSC, Mates in Mind will be supported by other core partners including charities Samaritans, Mind and Mental Health First Aid England.

Robinson said: “We know that for one working day lost in construction to accidents, five are lost due to ill health and nearly half of these are due to mental health, including depression and anxiety. If we look at the numbers in costs, it works out as £1,035 per worker a year lost due to mental health issues, even if you round that down to £1,000 and then say you have 500 employees, that’s half a million pounds a year.

“Other shocking statistics are that suicide will kill 10 times as many people as on-site accidents in the construction industry, every day we leave it or choose to not address these issues that’s more loss of life. There are compelling moral reasons for this programme, but the numbers above also make a compelling financial reason.”

As well as raising awareness through banners, posters, resource booklets and materials, how the programme will work practically was also revealed.

There will be three tiers to the process. The first will be a voluntary 45-minute induction session to begin the conversation about mental health – it is hoped this will reach a number of normal everyday workers on site across the country.

The second tier is aimed at providing better support for supervisors and line managers as they are the ones most often able to identify if their staff require support or a helping hand. This module will involve a 3.5-hour training course to increase awareness of mental ill health among foremen, supervisors and managers.

The final level will be akin to first aid training, if there was a physical incident on site a first aider would attend to it, so it is hoped the same approach will be done for mental health conditions. This will be a two-day Mental Health First Aid course for construction taken on by people in the industry.

A fourth process has also been announced which will be aimed at training people in the industry to work as counsellors in a 24-hour suicide prevention programme. This module will be developed later.

A number of big names have already begun rolling out the initiative, including Balfour Beatty, Willmott Dixon, Heathrow and Tideway.

Speaking to CM in December Clive Johnson, group head of health, safety and security at Land Securities and chair of the HCLG, said all contractors and their supply chains must be signed up to Mates in Mind before they can tender for work with the developer.

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