The Need For Holistic Safety in Construction

  • May 10, 2021

Guest Post By Tricia Kagerer

For the last eight years, OSHA has dedicated the first week of May (May 3-7, 2021) to participate in The National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction. Engineering controls, processes and procedures, and personal protection are the defense mechanisms safety professionals recommend to prevent falls in our industry.

Management can manage visible risks like fall exposures through identification, education, and training. Yet, hidden under the surface is a subtle, invisible risk that plagues the construction industry. Burn Out and stress leading to unhealthy wellbeing can impact everyone. Even before the pandemic, this generation was considered the most medicated, depressed, and addicted Americans in history.  Our industry is not shielded from these issues.  According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the construction industry has the highest rate of suicide risk. Construction workers are statistically at a higher risk for mental health issues than virtually any other occupation.

A risk that drives this challenge includes the job demands requiring team members to work under tight schedules, long hours, often away from support and family. The historically male-dominated Bro Code Culture reinforces an environment where everyday frustrations, unresolved conflicts lead to distraction and miscommunication. These conditions contribute to not only workplace accidents. They can also lead to depression, stress, anxiety, and substance abuse.  Awareness is an essential tool in opening a dialogue that helps individuals identify struggles and feel comfortable coming forward to find support.

For the first time, the Construction industry has expanded its outreach, creating Holistic Safety Awareness Week.  The industry’s safety culture has expanded to include mental wellbeing to reduce factors that increase risks on the job. Holistic Safety embraces both a physically and mentally safe environment and makes every aspect of wellbeing expand the reach of safety culture.  The message is simple: construction organizations are checking in to ensure the workforce is physically safe to perform the tasks at hand.  Holistic Safety provides tools to ensure that each team member has support and challenge. Leaders learn about the signs of stress and fatigue to identify a team member who may be struggling or need help. The power of one conversation can save a life.

We must prioritize both physical and psychological safety in the workplace. Together, they play an important role in our relationships with our team members and our ability to bring our safest, most productive, best selves to work every day.

Tricia Kagerer leads the risk management, safety, and leadership teams as the EVP of Risk Management for Jordan Foster Construction. She is a friend of Beck, an author, and a safety expert. Tricia serves on the Board of Directors for the Board of Certified Safety Professionals.