Suicide: The Lesser-Known Hazard for Construction Workers

According to the CDC, construction workers commit suicide 4 times more than the general population. What can be done to stem this hazard?

Falling, being struck by equipment or debris, suffering electrocution—all of these are hazards often associated with workplace deaths in US construction. But according to a recent study, the potential killer we should be taking note of is suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men working in construction have one of the highest suicide rates compared to other industries, a rate about 4 times higher than the general population.1

In response, the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has formed a task force of industry partners, unions, and educators to raise awareness about construction worker depression and suicide.

The task force is calling for participation in a weeklong Suicide Prevention Safety Stand-Down event from September 6-10, hoping to illuminate the unique challenges construction workers face. The event coincides with National Suicide Prevention Month in September.

“Work-related stress can have severe impacts on mental health and without proper support may lead to substance abuse and even suicide,” said Jim Frederick, Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “Workers in construction face many work-related stressors that may increase their risk factors for suicide, such as the uncertainty of seasonal work, demanding schedules and workplace injuries that are sometimes treated with opioids.”2

More than 5000 people participated in the 2020 Suicide Prevention Safety Stand-Down. OSHA hopes more will join the effort in 2021.

“Like many workplace fatalities, suicides can be prevented,” said Billie Kizer, OSHA Acting Regional Administrator. “We encourage employers to use all available resources, familiarize themselves with the problem and learn to recognize the warning signs of depression. We also urge workers to seek help if they feel overwhelmed or overcome by a loss of hope.”2

References

1. McCleery T, Earnest S, Socias-Morales C, Garza E. Partnering to prevent suicide in the construction industry – building hope and a road to recovery. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. September 9, 2020. Accessed August 27, 2021. https://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2020/09/09/suicide-in-construction/

2. US Department of Labor. US Department of Labor, industry leaders, stakeholders call on employers, workers to combat surge in construction worker suicides. August 24, 2021. Accessed August 27, 2021. https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/osha/osha20210824