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Employers, Labor Leaders Join State Officials to Raise Awareness, Action Around Suicide Prevention in Construction Industry
September 08, 2022
LEO And MDHHS Join Efforts to Highlight Construction Suicide Prevention Week Focused on Awareness and Prevention of Suicide in Construction Industry, Highest Among All Occupations in Michigan
LANSING, Mich.— In recognition of the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Construction Suicide Prevention Week, the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) held an event today to discuss the importance of including mental health in workplace safety efforts to protect workforce, as well as suicide prevention resources and ways to support the mental health of workers in the construction industry and beyond.
The construction industry has one of the highest rates of suicides among all occupations — four times higher than the general population. In Michigan, the construction and extraction occupation suicide rate was 75.4 per 100,000 people in 2019 according to MDHHS. Each year in September, OSHA dedicates a week to raising awareness about the challenges workers face in the construction industry that may lead to suicide or other mental health issues and methods to prevent it.
To further Michigan’s commitment to supporting mental health in the workplace, Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined the prevention effort this week, releasing a proclamation declaring September 5-9 Construction Suicide Prevention Week in Michigan.
Today’s recognition event brought together state government officials, Southfield-based contractor Barton Malow and the Michigan Building Trades to highlight the high number of suicides in the industry and provide resources to employers and employees. Messages from the event echoed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s recently released mental health workgroup findings, as the state continues to find ways to address mental health in Michiganders.
“In order to build strong workplaces, a strong workforce and strong communities, we must invest in mental health and safety,” said Sean Egan, LEO’s Deputy Director of Labor, who led the state’s mental health workgroup. “To ensure we are truly protecting and supporting working people – those that are helping us build stronger communities – we must provide more mental health supports in the workplace, and we are building on that today by educating and encouraging employers and employees to confront this critical issue impacting the construction industry.”
During today’s event, MIOSHA highlighted programs available to employers to ensure workplace safety and the group’s commitment to helping employers protect all workers.
“MIOSHA has many programs available to assist employers in improving worker protections,” said Bart Pickelman, MIOSHA Director. “We know how a strong safety culture can positively impact employees’ wellbeing and are committed to working with Michigan employers to strengthen their workplace safety and health.”
MDHHS shared medical findings from the mental health workgroup and resources that construction employers are encouraged to share with their employees.
“Our workgroup findings tell us that mental health can have a strong impact, positive or negative, on employee satisfaction, work productivity and companies as a whole,” said Dr. Debra Pinals, MDHHS Medical Director of Behavioral Health and Forensic Programs. “We want to work with employers to ensure that all employees are getting the tools necessary to create happier, stronger workplaces.”
Also at the event were Barton Malow representatives and their construction crew working on the future Ultium Cells facility in Lansing, Michigan, who highlighted how the mental health and safety of workers impacts the ability to provide key economic projects that bring vitality to communities across our state.
“Barton Malow is proud to be one of the organizations across the state encouraging people to raise awareness around mental health in this industry,” said Brian Miller, Barton Malow Vice President. “Our work cannot be done without the workers, and our workers deserve support and resources to not only protect their physical health and safety, but also their mental health and safety.”
The Michigan Building Trades reiterated that sentiment, encouraging employers to invest in strategies that support the wellbeing of construction workers, the backbone of the building trades industry.
“Construction workers face many challenges that lead to an overwhelming number of suicides in the industry,” said DeShon Leek, Michigan Building Trades, Southeast Representative. “Having conversations about mental health in the workplace can be difficult, but we all have a role to play in supporting the people who help make our communities great.”
Construction Suicide Prevention Week falls within National Suicide Prevention Month.
While today’s event focused on the construction industry due to the alarming rates, all Michigan employers are encouraged to invest in the mental health and wellness of their employees by promoting suicide prevention dialogue, training and resources.
Additional resources for improving mental health in the workplace can be found here:
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration: osha.gov/preventingsuicides
- Construction Suicide Prevention Week: constructionsuicideprevention.com
- The Center for Construction Research and Training: cpwr.com/research/research-to-practice-r2p/r2p-library/other-resources-for-stakeholders/mental-health-addiction/suicide-prevention-resources
- The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: afsp.org/get-help
- Michigan Crisis and Access Line: michigan.gov/mical
- Wellness support related to COVID-19: michigan.gov/staywell
If you are having trouble coping with work-related stress, talk with someone who can help. Call the new three-digit dialing code 988 or find online chat at 988lifeline.org/chat.