Preventing Suicide in the Construction Industry

Kristi Pronovost The Merit Shop Safety Blog, The Merit Shop Spokesman Blog

By: Kevin B. Keith, ABC Keystone Director of Safety Services

There is an epidemic in the construction industry and many in the industry are not even aware of it. If you read ABC Keystone President-CEO Dave Sload’s article in the December Spokesman, you might know that the epidemic is suicide. More construction workers die by suicide each day than by all other workplace-related fatalities combined! There is a need to help put a stop to this and address suicide through prevention.

It would be simple to lay blame on one area of concern, but opioid usage and abuse in the workplace is also on the rise. The recent 2018 Occupational Fatality statistics released by OSHA show that there was a 12 percent increase in unintentional overdoses for the year, and this represents the sixth consecutive year of increase. The same report showed an 11 percent increase in suicides taking place in the workplace.

The other statistics associated with suicide rates in construction are just as sobering. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for the ages of 34 and under. It is the fourth leading cause of death for ages 45-54. Men in their early 20s through their 50s account for most of the suicides. Male-dominated industries tend to have higher suicides rates as compared to those not so gender dominated.

In order to help in combating the issue, OSHA has dedicated a new page to aid in the prevention of suicides, https://www.osha.gov/preventingsuicides/. The page provides information and resources for those workers that need assistance. Other resources and links provided on the site include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Suicide Prevention webpage, the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention, Construction Working Minds, Suicide in the Construction Industry: Breaking the Stigma and Silence, American Society of Safety Professionals, and sites provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – Suicide Prevention.

Knowing where to go for assistance and learning how to open the conversation with workers is critical. Letting them know there are organizations they can turn to, and that they are not alone, becomes a necessary step in providing the assistance that they need. Protecting our workers not only from physical, but also psychological, hazards is a critical part of our job as an employer or coworker. Employers need to educate themselves about this problem and take active steps to provide the necessary assistance to protect their workforce from suicide.

If you have questions related to the prevention of suicides in construction, ABC Keystone offers guidance to assist your company. Go to abckeystone.org and look at the upcoming course offerings. If you don’t see a course that you are looking for, contact Kevin Keith, Director of Safety Services, to discuss a customized training for your company.


Did You Know?

The suicide rate in construction is 53.2 per every 100,000 workers in the industry. That is four times greater than the national average and five times greater than that of all other construction fatalities combined, according the National Centers for Disease Control.

January 7, 2020