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Construction Worker Wellbeing and Suicide Risk

Protect Your Hard Hat Health

Suicide in construction is more than three times higher than the rate for the general population in the United States, and construction has the highest number of suicides among all occupations. What can be done to address this alarming trend?

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Risk Mitigation Plans Are the Key

Construction companies should re-evaluate their risk mitigation approach and implement worker wellbeing into their overall safety and health strategy to address the physical health, behavioral health, and stressors that workers face each day — focusing on the underlying conditions that impact each one of these areas.

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Why Are Wellbeing Risks So High in Construction?

  • Financial Wellbeing
    Workers are typically paid on an hourly basis, so if work is canceled, there is no pay. This creates access barriers to adequate medical healthcare and behavioral health services.
  • Workforce Culture
    When you think of construction, you think of the stoic “tough worker” work ethic, right? This kind of mentality sets the tone that feelings should not be talked about, which can lead to a stifling work environment.
  • Mental Health Stigma
    That tough worker mentality leads right into workers being afraid to bring up mental wellbeing issues and losing trust in their colleagues and leadership.
  • Stressors
    Long hours, rotating shifts, physically and mentally demanding working conditions, and harsh environmental conditions can be hard on the body.
  • Lifestyle Choices
    Lifestyle choices can include whether a worker is receptive to seeking medical care and behavioral health services, or even alcohol and substance misuse.

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Holmes Murphy’s Hard Hat Health Initiative

What’s under the hard hat matters.

For the past two decades, the construction industry has experienced a steady decrease in the frequency of non-fatal injuries (Total Recordable Incident Rate [TRIR] and/or Days Away, Restricted or Transferred [DART] cases). While these numbers are positive, construction isn’t seeing the same reduction trend in the number and nature of serious injuries and/or fatalities (SIFs).

Contractors need to understand that their workers don’t just show up at the jobsite and check their distractions at the front gate. Workers bring many of their outside distractions and personal challenges with them to work. These distractions can lead to a level of presenteeism that contributes to a lack of engagement and concentration on work tasks. This, in turn, contributes to incidents and injuries, as well as quality defects leading to rework and waste.

Many contractors believe the way to fix a safety problem (incidents and injuries) is to implement a new safety program. Simply put, that doesn’t solve the problem. The bottom line is that contractors need to focus their efforts on the mental wellbeing and suicide prevention aspects of their workforce. It’s a shift in safety thinking from programs to a focus on the worker’s mindset — “What’s under the hardhat?”

Our Help is Concrete
Our Holmes Murphy Construction team is equipped to help your organization tackle stigma, elevate the importance of mental health and wellbeing, and shift the “toxic” mindset. Check out our Construction Wellbeing Model to learn more.
Construction Wellbeing Model
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If you’re interested in learning more about our Construction Worker Wellbeing and Suicide Prevention service and how we can help you address challenges your employees may be facing, reach out today.
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Construction Worker Wellbeing FAQs

What external factors impact worker wellbeing?

The ebb and flows of economic cycles, combined with end-of-project furloughs and seasonal layoffs, impact the financial wellbeing of workers. Construction is a pressure-packed industry with increasing demands to meet rising performance standards in schedule, budget, productivity, quality, and safety. This stress can impact the wellbeing of the workforce.

What are some underlying conditions that can impact construction worker mental wellbeing?

While every employee is different, you can categorize conditions impacting construction worker wellbeing in three areas – physical health conditions, behavioral health conditions, and stressors. Below are some examples for each category. If you’ve noticed these conditions in your employees, it might be time to consider re-evaluating your worker wellbeing approach.

Physical Health Conditions:

  • Fatigue
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Chronic pain
  • Sleep disorders
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease

Behavioral Health Conditions:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Depression
  • Heavy/binge drinking
  • Tobacco use
  • Substance misuse/Substance use disorder
  • Suicide
  • Opioids for pain management


  • Financial pressures from seasonal cyclical work
  • Isolation from out-of-town work/travel
  • Separation from family and other support
  • Overtime
  • Fatigue from rotation day/night shifts
  • Pressures of perfectionism
  • Job and duty pressures
How do distractions and presenteeism impact workers?

Distracted and unwell workers increase risk of near hits/misses, serious injuries, and fatalities. These effects can impact your company profits, including but not limited to:

  • Quality defects and rework
  • Schedule impacts and overtime
  • Sequence and schedule delays
  • Unnecessary overtime
  • Equipment damage