United Contractors Magazine August 2019

Page 6


By Mark Breslin, United Contractors CEO

Wellness is Not Weak

Doing the Right Thing for Our Workforce To be a construction worker is not an easy career. And if you lack the life skills or tools to manage that career, it can unravel quickly with significant effect on one’s work, family and life. What does that look like? • The construction industry has one of the highest occupational rates of suicide; • The construction industry has a highly disproportionate number of employees impacted by alcohol and substance issues; • Recent studies identify the construction workforce as severely impacted by depression, anxiety, and other emotional and psychological issues. ASPHALT & CONCRETE SAW CUTTING UP TO 27” DEPTH, CORE DRILLING, FLAT SAWING (Gas/Electric), WALL SAWING, WIRE SAWING, ROUND LOOPS, CHAIN SAWING


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Where does this all come from? Construction is an industry that challenges workers with unpredictable employment trends: periods of seasonal unemployment; financial highs and lows; wear and tear on the body and mind; exposure to hazards and elements; and transient employment between contractors. None of these provide the stable predictable platform that most employed people in the U.S. enjoy. Thus, if several of these intersect in a negative way, we see a destabilization of the employee and the commensurate impact. Our rough and tough construction culture does not leave room for wellness. Sounds soft. Sounds lame. Sounds weak. And yet how many people and their families struggle because our “guy-culture” promotes an ongoing coping strategy of suck-it-up and shove it down to ignore it. All of the hidden difficulties and challenges of being human impact our workforce—and we are in a culture and environment that discourages any form of admission or requests for help. Not unlike the military, or perhaps law enforcement, our culture is one that still resembles a keep-it-to-yourself unwritten rule system. What this misses are all of our workers struggling with issues and even self-destructive tendencies that end lives. The idea that because we wear hard hats that our hard shells protect us is an illusion. I recently read about a joint labor management organization formally taking on the issue of suicide among construction workers (see box at right, and article on page 8). I don’t know why I was so shocked.