Glass and Construction Industries Work to Reduce Suicide Rates

Mental health issues have long been a problem in the construction industry. A 2020 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that workers in construction have one of the highest suicide rates compared to other industries. That suicide rate is nearly four times higher than the general population.

To help combat rising suicide rates, the CDC in 2020 requested a weeklong suicide prevention safety stand-down from September 6-10. The awareness initiative pushed construction industry members to discuss the challenges its workers face.

In tandem with the CDC’s initiative, a group of volunteers from across the construction industry came together in 2020 and launched Construction Suicide Prevention Week, which ran from September 5-9. The week is dedicated to raising awareness about suicide in the construction industry and the steps needed to prevent it. In 2021, more than 68,000 workers from 32 states registered their participation in Construction Suicide Prevention Week.

This past September, a group of construction industry panelists, including Karena Lorek, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Kansas City Area office area director, John Gaal, worker wellness director for Missouri Works Initiative, and Christopher Rodman, CPWR opioid projects coordinator, participated in a webinar to share information about efforts to highlight the signs and symptoms of mental health issues. The webinar underscored the growing need to address mental health in the construction industry. Webinar host Jessica Bunting, Research to Practice director, says that since 2020, 42% of construction workers have struggled with mental health or substance abuse.

Furthermore, male construction workers have a suicide rate 65% higher than all U.S. male workers.

The main contributing factors to these increased rates are sleep deprivation, alcohol addiction, drug abuse, anxiety disorders and depression, says Gaal.

With these increased rates, it is imperative to look for suicidal warning signs. These signs include direct statements such as “I’m going to kill myself” and indirect statements like “I’m going away forever.” If you notice any of those signs, take the time to pull the person aside and have a conversation.

“Listen to what they have to say,” says Gaal. “Let them open up. You might have to ask some prompting questions but let them open up … Make sure that you show them that you care. Science shows us that if you intervene with someone’s suicide plan, up to 94% of people abandon the plan.”

OSHA also has a five-step suicide prevention model that includes remaining aware, paying attention, reaching out, taking action and learning more. The CDC states that there are various circumstances that can help prevent suicide. These include a strong sense of cultural identity, effective coping and problem-solving skills, support from partners and family, the feeling of being connected, quality physical and behavioral healthcare and reduced access to lethal means.

Organizations in the construction industry are also taking action to combat suicide within the trade. Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), notes that there are 53.2 suicides per 100,000 workers compared to a national construction workplace fatality rate of 10.2 per 100,000 workers. As a result, the AGC launched a new public awareness campaign to help combat high suicide rates and improve mental health within the construction industry.

“We cannot stand by while a silent epidemic of suicide takes place within our industry,” says Sandherr. “We want to reduce the stigma of mental health issues in this industry, let people know it is okay to ask for help and, ultimately, save lives.”

If you have thoughts of suicide, get help now. Research shows that people are happy to have an advocate, says Rodman. If you or someone you know needs help, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-8255.

To Help, Take Action

When it comes to the construction industry, there are several steps companies can take to create a caring culture. These steps include:

  • Leadership support and engagement
  • Injury management programs
  • Encouraging peer support relationships
  • Personal financial management
  • Gun safety education
  • Substance abuse education
  • Build in veteran protective factors
  • Confirm access to benefits
  • Train managers/supervisors in people management skills

Suicide Warning Signs

  • Hopelessness
  • Rage
  • Feeling trapped
  • Withdrawal from friends
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Increased alcohol/drug usage
  • Poor sleep
  • Depression

Save Time and Get Paid While Protecting Lien Rights

“If you do construction work, if you don’t get paid for whatever reason, you deserve to get paid and you do have rights to protect yourself,” says Paige Centa, senior account executive at Levelset, which helps contractors and suppliers get payment under control. “The trouble is that you have to do it correctly.”

Getting paid on time can be a struggle, which in turn increases the difficulty of growing one’s business. Not to mention, a lack of education on the subject increases the likelihood of having to bring in a costly attorney to assist for extended periods. For smaller companies, that can be quite a hurdle. There are several misconceptions surrounding liens, she says. While generally a good idea, written contracts aren’t required in most states. Nor do those contracts translate to lien rights. Just because a supplier protects
their lien rights doesn’t mean yours are protected as well.

“You have to protect your interests every single time,” says Centa. “Filing a lien is a powerful tool, but the harsh reality is you can’t just file a lien at any time or for any reason. There are really strict deadlines you have to get right, or else you’re out of luck.”

While laws, steps, requirements and deadlines vary from state to state, there are several general ways to protect lien rights. The first is to ensure everyone knows you’re on the job by sending a preliminary notice. Centa says that notice provides visibility, speeds up the payment process, builds good relationships and prevents having to file a lien.

The next method of protection is taking advantage of financing designed specifically for contractors. Centa says only 8% of construction payments in the U.S. come within net terms, whatever they may be.

“Those are all ways you can buy yourself cash flexibility so that you can kind of cut yourself out of this burden,” says Centa.

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