Job insecurity, business pressures, demands to deliver on deadlines and dealing with illness and injury were factors involved in 300 suicides in New Zealand's multi-billion dollar construction sector in a decade, according to a new report out today.
Brett Murray, Site Safe chief executive, said his organisation had released "the first report on suicide in New Zealand's construction sector" and that showed factors why people killed themselves.
Responding to concerns about high construction industry suicide levels, the report highlighted alarming pressures on workers and aimed to provide evidence to inform future prevention moves.
The study reviewed 300 coroners' closed case files of construction industry suicides. Those occurred between 2007 to 2017. Coroners' reports listed workplace pressures as a factor in nearly a third or 32.3 per cent of all cases, Site Safe said.
"The workplace pressures mentioned in coroners' reports included job insecurity or uncertainty, the stress related to running a business, pressure to deliver under deadlines, juggling responsibilities and dealing with an injury or illness affecting the ability to work. One in eight or 13 per cent of all cases listing workplace pressures included experiences of job insecurity or uncertain work situation," Murray said.
The self-employed or business owners were twice as likely to have been impacted by work-related factors than employees of businesses, the study found.
The report is aimed at informing industry, Government, and the wider public so they can understand the risk factors and pressures that can contribute to suicide in the construction industry so that they can better respond to them, a statement said.
"To lose 300 people to suicide in our industry over 10 years is devastating. It's an employer's responsibility to provide a safe environment for their workers and this includes protecting physical and mental wellbeing. There has been huge progress in workplace health and safety over the past twenty years, but we all need to play our part in shifting attitudes towards mental health.
"We know that companies and contractors in our industry are looking for help to protect their employees' mental wellbeing. This report shines a spotlight on the pressures that exist for people working in the construction industry and it's a first step towards understanding the problem," Murray said.
The sector needs to work together to ensure mental health was protected, ranging from apprentices to small business owners and employees of large construction companies, he said.
The report showed the construction sector figures reflected the broader trends for male suicide in New Zealand. Almost all or 99 per cent of the suicide cases of people who worked in the construction industry recorded over the 10-year period were men.
The age-groups most affected were also similar to national male population figures, with 15 per cent of cases aged 20-24 and 14 per cent aged 45-49.
The report identified no single driver of construction industry suicides but found causes were complex. Yet work stress, financial strain and physical injuries were factors.
Shaun Robinson, Mental Health Foundation spokesman said the findings showed pressures on people working in the sector.
The pressures were not unique to the construction industry, but the solutions can be found by getting the industry set-up to address these challenges and improve the mental health of its people, Robinson said.
Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.