Esh Construction is backing the industry-wide efforts to open up the dialogue on mental health, as workers continue to combat the mental strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking about mental health anxieties is the best way to alleviate your own concerns, according to the firm’s Director of Health and Safety Quality and Environment, William Stobbs.
The male-centric construction sector has long-been criticised for not doing enough to support its workers. And with Office for National Statistics reporting that at least one construction worker a day takes their own life in the UK, ahead of Time to Talk Day 2021, Stobbs believes more needs to be done to get the conversation going.
Stobbs, who has been with Esh Construction for 17 years and has seen a number of changes brought in to support staff, said: “There is more focus throughout the group and wider sector on supporting wellbeing. We want to get the message out to the wider community, to our employees and our subcontractors not to suffer in silence.
“It’s only really in the last few years that the conversation on mental health has come to the fore. We’re all aware of it these days and in the current climate, it’s on every news bulletin, which shows great progress.”
Esh Construction has a team of 37 mental health first aiders who are trained by MHFA England. The firm, which has over 700 employees, provides regular updates to staff about managing their mental health and openly promotes conversation among its workforce. Site toolbox talks encourage workers to down tools, learn about the support available and tactics on how they could manage any mental health difficulties they may experience now or in the future.
“We’re in really challenging times and we have to call on our mental strength to get through it,” said Stobbs. “We must all support each other as we all have various factors at play, whether they are financial, work, or relationship orientated.”
While the team of mental health first aiders have been unable to hold face-to-face meetings with staff through the COVID-19 pandemic, they continue to reach out to team members who are showing signs of mental fatigue.
The industry is now putting measures in place to reduce this statistic and get workers talking. The Construction Industry Helpline app and the CALMS helpline are actively encouraged by Esh Construction, while EmployeeCare provides access to confidential counselling and work life services.
“We’re a responsible employer, so we take the health and wellbeing of all of our employees seriously,” added Stobbs. “We have our own safety campaign, Everyone Safely Home, which not only signposts people towards information and support, but encourage our employees to have these conversations in a safe environment. If people are having mental health issues or general concerns, then it’s fundamental to our concerns as well.”
Stobbs says making employees, subcontractors, and anyone visiting sites aware of the support streams is a crucial part in his health and safety role. “The COVID crisis has escalated any problems people might have had. I think personally, we all have our own bits of concern for our family and friends. Maybe we’re all calling on our friends for support more than we were previously.
“We’re encouraging people to have those conversations, even if it’s just a couple of minutes to maybe ring someone up and ask how they are doing. If you observe someone at work that doesn’t seem to be their normal self, take them away from other people and just have a chat with them. It might be something that’s nothing major or serious but, at the end of the day, we must show compassion.”
Stobbs said that senior Esh employees have been advised to ring their teams for catch ups through the lockdown periods. He said: “Although this awareness day brings a focus on mental health, we want any conversation to be seen as that, a friendly catch up. This Time to Talk Day, we’d encourage everyone that if you do nothing else, then at least ring two people in your contacts list and check in with them. Whether that’s a work colleague, family, or friend, we all need to chat more.”
To find out more about Esh Construction, visit www.eshgroup.co.uk