Construction group Stonewood is tackling the outdated macho image of building sites and encouraging its staff to talk about problems that could cause stress and anxiety.
During Mental Health Awareness Week, a series of site visits, seminars and ‘Tool Box Talks’ have aimed to let workers know that they can open up about things that are worrying them and there will be someone to listen.
Shane Andrews, construction director of the Wiltshire and Gloucestershire group’s Earthstone Construction ground working arm, said that although the visits have been timed for Mental Health Awareness Week, the company places a high priority on mental health all year round.
Mr Andrews, who is leading the group’s mental health initiative, said: “It is something I really want to champion with our lads because in construction it is quite a male-dominated environment and they don’t always want to admit they have problems.
“Things are getting better but there are still issues with workers who find it hard or uncomfortable to articulate their feelings. As a group we really want to promote that it is good to talk and if there is a problem things can be better if you share it and we want to create an environment where people feel safe to do that.”
The group has signed up to a charter devised by the construction industry charity the Lighthouse Club’s Building Mental Health initiative. It has pledged to provide awareness and understanding of the impact of poor mental ill health, reduce stigma and discrimination and encourage conversation in the workplace.
It has appointed four mental health first-aiders and trained them to provide assistance and signpost workers to support in their communities. The company has also produced hi-vis jackets for workers bearing The Lighthouse Club’s 24-hour Time To Change mental health hotline – 0345 6051956.
“We have been around our sites holding seminars and putting up posters to let people know there is help available,” said Mr Andrews. “We’ve done this in Mental Health Awareness week but it isn’t just all about one week, this is something we feel strongly about and want to be talking about all year long.”
He said the family company’s teamwork ethos means that everyone is considered to be important, no matter what their role. “We don’t want our lads to just be a number, we want to know them all as best as we can,” he said. “At Earthstone we have 65 staff and I know all of their names. That isn’t easy to do but we take pride in that personal touch we try to give everyone.”
He said appraisals are an opportunity to discuss personal and professional circumstances and identify issues that might be causing anxiety or stress. “Whenever someone starts here I meet them as part of their induction to talk about things like health and safety standards but also mental health,” he said.
A spokesman for the charity said: “Every working day, two construction workers take their own life. We have to educate everyone in our industry to recognise the signs and symptoms of our colleagues that are suffering from stress, anxiety or depression and start the conversation to assist in their recovery.”