UniSA Digs Deep to Prevent Construction Worker Suicides
Every year 190 Australians working in the construction industry take their own lives – that’s one worker every second day. They’re confronting statistics, but for an industry that’s often fraught with risk and uncertainty, it’s a reality that the sector is determined to change.
Now, new research from the University of South Australia is investigating the reasons behind such high rates of suicide in the construction sector, in the hope of saving lives.
Lead researcher and UniSA PhD candidate Simon Tyler has identified 26 potential drivers of suicide for construction industry workers. He says while many motivators are known, others have received little attention.
“Given the nature of building and construction, it’s extremely disturbing to know that construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than from a workplace accident,” Tyler says.
“This is a terrible reality for workers and their families.
“Part of the problem resides in the industry itself – it’s highly transient, with most workers employed on a project-by-project basis – so there’s little opportunity for workers to build workplace supports or friendships.
“Another issue is persistent stereotypical concepts of masculinity, which can have a big impact on mental health. So, when workers put up strong exteriors to detract from their issues or insecurities, they’re also shielding themselves from supports.
“Unfortunately, such unhelpful masculine attitudes and behaviours can result in negative outcomes, such as bullying, which can escalate over time.
“By examining these and other potential stressors in the sector, including work hours, job demands and legislations, we hope to develop best practice approaches to reduce rates of suicide.”