What does the future hold for health & wellbeing in the construction sector?

12th April 2021
Matthew Jackson
Head of HSE

The need for better industry approaches to physical, mental, and behavioural health in the contemporary context has irked a response across many sectors to nurture better working environments for people. In this episode, Matthew Jackson, Head of HSE at WSP in the Middle East is joined by Jimmy Quinn, President Institution of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH) to discuss the future of health and wellbeing as the world recovers from the current pandemic and anticipates future challenges on the horizon.

WSP Middle East · What does the future hold for health & wellbeing in the construction sector?

Not able to listen? Here’s an overview of the discussion:

The importance of health and wellbeing in the construction sector has been a recurring topic for some time. However, with the emergence of COVID-19, the need to respond better to employees’ needs has been exacerbated as different industries navigate government guidelines and strive to create the best environments possible for their people.

With the blurring of personal time and work, and the introduction of new remote working patterns, how have construction sector organizations and OSH professionals responded to ensure that policies and practices are in place to help manage the impact that this has had on people, particularly with a focus on mental health?

 

Leading from the front:

“I think for some organizations, the value that the OSH professionals bring to their organisations has certainly shown through as a result of the pandemic, and I think they’ve relied on them a lot more than what they previously would,” Matthew Jackson said.

“Largely, I think a lot of the larger organisations were really leading from the front and working kind of in the dark. And, then they’re creating these great controls that we can see know, and implementing [these],” Jimmy Quinn added.

“[With] the impact of mental health and working long hours, I think it’s important that, leaders within organisations lead by example, they set that example, and that that has to filter down through the various levels of management to people who are working on the shop floor. I think there almost needs to be an expectation of leaders to lead by example and to establish clear boundaries between those lines.”

 

Breaking down mental health barriers:

“Working in the Middle East, we have a melting pot of cultures; not everybody is in the same space in terms of being comfortable talking about their mental health and about how they’re feeling. So, I think that brings its own challenges as well, and that’s something that certainly as a region we’ve got to break down the barriers on and really invest in how we can get into those people, [how] we can get them to open up and we can get them to talk about it and speak to people when things are not going right,” Matthew Jackson said.

Jimmy Quinn added: “It’s just a case of utilizing it and keeping it going, and having the right people having the right conversations, we can ensure that you’ve got a great process set up, make sure everything’s signposted, that you have access to professional people that can help.

“I think the [mental health] train is definitely on its way. I think that the train has definitely left the station, and I think it’s in-bound… and I do believe that we do have it coming around the corner. It’s got to happen – there’s really got to be a lot more of the mental health issues coming out because it’s not just looking at the workers, it’s not looking at office workers, it’s not looking at retail workers, it’s not looking at workers per se across any industry. For me, it’s looking at the family part of it; it’s looking through the generations part, it’s looking through youngsters. I think there’s going to be a massive hit in that area, above all else, that’s my belief.,” Quinn added.

“I still do think there’s plenty of education and awareness we don’t in this area. I mean, it’s almost getting to the point where, you know, people see it as if you put your hand you’d go and get up you go and see somebody you got a plaster, you get a First Aider, and I think we’ve still got a long way to go. But that’s where I feel we need to be as people treat their mental health the way is the same way as they do with their physical health. If they weren’t, well, they wouldn’t come into work. And they’d go and see a medical professional shouldn’t be any different for their mental health,” Jackson added.