Industry bodies face up to the mental health challenge - The BESA
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Friday, June 10, 2016

Industry bodies face up to the mental health challenge

The Building Engineering Services Association (the BESA), the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) and the CIBSE Patrons are joining forces to work with the Samaritans on a campaign to address the growing problem of mental health and workplace stress in the building engineering services industry.

This joint initiative will begin with a jointly hosted seminar to be held in central London.

BESA chief executive Paul McLaughlin, who will chair the event, said that 80% of engineering services firms believe that workplace mental health will have a serious impact on their businesses over the next five to ten years.

This worrying statistic emerged from an occupational health survey carried out by the BESA and the ECA, which also revealed that 31% of companies found on-site mental health issues “hard to manage”.

“Mental health is the forgotten health and safety issue,” said Mr McLaughlin. “As an industry, we have made impressive progress on workplace safety in the past 20 years, but on health  – and mental health in particular – we still have a long way to go.”

Samaritans regional partnerships officer Will Skinner, who will lead an interactive session at the seminar, pointed out that the vast majority of calls received by the charity are from people who are not suicidal, but just desperately need to talk to someone about how they feel and why they are struggling to cope.

He added that everyone could play a part in helping work colleagues to deal with depression and suicidal feelings.

Callers to the Samaritans range from individual tradespeople to senior managers feeling the isolation of leadership. Many small and medium-sized firms are also struggling to cope with stress created by tight deadlines and cash flow issues.

CIBSE Patrons chairman David Fitzpatrick pointed out that the impact of stress was apparent throughout the supply chain.

“For an industry that already has serious recruitment issues, tackling mental health has to be a priority,” he said.

“In order to make construction-related professions more attractive to a wider section of the population – particularly women, ethnic minorities and school leavers – we need to make sure we cover all aspects of worker wellbeing.”

ECA director of business Paul Reeve added that it was important that the sector worked together to help contractors tackle this issue.

“Unlike ensuring protection against physical health hazards, employees who face mental health challenges may be the least able to decide or follow the right course of preventative action,” he said.

The mental health seminar will take place at St Matthew's Conference Centre, 20 Great Peter Street, London SW1P 2BU on Thursday 21 July from at 5.00 pm. Attendance is free to members of the BESA, the ECA and the CIBSE Patrons, who may bring a guest. Bookings can be made by clicking here.

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