The construction industry is one of the most hazardous sectors to work in - with the risk of physical injury significantly higher than in many other industries. However, recently published statistics show that the concerns for the mental health of those working in construction are reaching critically worrying levels. According to the latest data from the Office of National Statistics covering England and Wales, construction workers are nearly four times more likely to take their own lives than in other sectors.
To meet the demand for the increase in reported mental health issues, Finning continues to grow its network of mental health first aiders, with 45 staff members, including members of the company's senior leadership team, being trained to deal with employees' mental health and wellbeing. The mental health first aiders are easily identifiable, each with a 'Talk to me!' email banner and a day-glow orange lanyard. Their role is to listen to colleagues' concerns or anxieties and, where appropriate, signpost them to the most relevant support organisations. They have also been trained to recognise the signs that someone is going through a mental health issue or struggling, so they can sensitively engage in proactive conversations.
Throughout Mental Health Awareness Week (May 15 – May 21), the mental health first aid team hosts 15 special drop-in sessions available to all staff, from those working out in field service and the workshops to those office or home based. The sessions include a mix of in-person and online so they're as accessible to all employees and offer a completely confidential and supportive place to discuss issues they're experiencing themselves or where managers can seek support for their team members.
Finning has recently invested in a dedicated online support portal available to all employees. Workspace Solutions is an employee assistance programme that gives everyone in the company access to various practical tools, including 24/7 counselling support, useful information for managing mental health and signposting to organisations that can provide specialised help. The platform is proving an effective tool to help new managers deal with situations they've not been involved in previously, including advice on coaching individuals and teams through different scenarios, links to one-to-one support, instructional videos and other useful tools.
Louise Campbell, process efficiency manager based at the company's headquarters in Staffordshire, central England, qualified as a mental health first aider in June 2022. "I've done a lot of work previously to support vulnerable adults and wanted to continue to use my skills to provide support for my colleagues here at Finning.
"Our growing community of mental health first aiders meet monthly, but we're available to provide the necessary reassurance and support to our colleagues whenever they need it.
"We've seen an increase in the number of calls or visits over the last year. In 2022 we recorded 372 'interactions' with colleagues from across the company, from all types of roles and locations. This year, we've already dealt with 207 calls, which is almost double when compared with this time last year.
"Anxiety in its various forms factors into many of the calls we deal with, in line with the theme and focus as part of this year's Mental Health Awareness Week.
"We're seeing a lot of anxiety linked to changes in working conditions post-Covid the transition back to working more frequently in the office. While there's also a lot of concern about the cost-of-living crisis, which we're all feeling."
Other newly introduced initiatives include all employees being given a mental health key card for their wallets – this includes contact details to the Finning mental health first aid support line and signposts to other external support organisations such as the Samaritans.
Campbell continues: "We have complete buy-in from the leadership team here at Finning, who ensure we're fully supported to provide the help when needed – whatever and whenever that may be.
"Today, during one of the drop-in sessions, a manager I didn't know dropped in and was looking for guidance on how to deal with a situation with a member of their team – something they'd never had to handle before.
"I was able to talk to them straight away and provide some practical advice about the scenario and signpost them to information for help. The relief on their faces said it all. That's why I'm passionate about this role."
The next steps for Finning include looking at the geographical spread of the MHFAs to ensure that they're as accessible to all employees working across Finning from the highlands of Scotland across Ireland and Ireland and the Southern tip of England.
Finning also provides ongoing mental health training, such as Starting the Conversation and Managing the Conversation courses, which began in 2018. These courses aim to break down the negative stigma around talking about mental health and give managers and employees the resources and knowledge to provide real and actionable support to their colleagues.