August 26, 2021

Task Force Aims to Raise Awareness of Stress, Suicide in Construction

A task force formed by OSHA is intended to raise awareness of stressors in the construction industry that can push workers into depression or toward suicide. The group comprises representatives from industry and unions as well as educators. Stressors related to construction work that may increase workers’ risk factors for suicide include the uncertainty of seasonal work, demanding schedules, and work-related injuries that are sometimes treated with opioids, explains Jim Frederick, acting assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, in a press release published on Aug. 24. A study described in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in 2020 indicates that the construction industry has one of the highest suicide rates compared to other industries.

OSHA’s task force is urging construction industry employers to participate in a Suicide Prevention Safety Stand-Down the week of Sept. 6–10. The stand-down, which will coincide with National Suicide Prevention Month, is intended to raise awareness about the challenges faced by construction workers. Employers should also share and discuss available resources with their workers, the task force says. OSHA’s website features resources for suicide prevention, and a page on NIOSH’s website focuses on ways to prevent suicide in the workplace.

According to Barbara Epstien, a certified industrial hygienist at the Oregon-Columbia Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, who presented on health and safety issues in construction at AIHce EXP 2020, known contributing factors for suicide and many aspects of working in construction create a “perfect storm of risk.” Read The Synergist’s coverage of her presentation to learn more. The article “Mental Health in Construction,” which was published in the May 2021 issue of The Synergist, further explores this topic.