Ten Tips for Creating a Workplace Suicide Prevention Plan

A suicide prevention plan can destigmatize mental health and wellbeing outreach, improve safety of construction workers and help reverse the devasting suicide rates in construction.
By Steve Frost
March 24, 2021

Within the last several years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released devastating statistics about occupational and industry-specific suicide rates reporting that construction is the second highest at-risk occupation group for suicide. For an industry where safety is always at the forefront of operations, this statistic hits close to home for Balfour Beatty and its businesses.

Construction industry experts have identified suicide risk factors including stress, scheduling pressures, time away from families, major skills gaps, sleep problems and injuries. To continue to safely deliver infrastructure and built environments that communities rely on, it is up to the industry to take additional steps to protect the workforce by raising awareness about the prevalence of suicide in construction.

10 tips for launching a suicide prevention plan

These 10 tips for launching a suicide prevention plan within a company can further destigmatize mental health and wellbeing outreach in the workplace include:

  1. Obtain upper management buy-in. The decision to implement a suicide prevention program relies on the support of executive-level team members. Find the champions within the company that will effectively promote mental health and wellbeing messages and drive the program to success at the workplace.
  2. Set parameters. Understand that there are limitations to respond to mental health situations in the workplace. The goal is to connect someone to a professional who has adequate training and experience to help someone in need.
  3. Provide training and resources. There are suicide prevention resources available to train designated listeners. Designated listeners are not expected to directly address mental health situations in the workplace, but instead equip those in need with immediate access to professional resources, guidance and help for responding to crisis situations.
  4. Create a culture of care. Intertwine suicide prevention into other safety topics to help destigmatize mental health conversations. Discuss stress management, crisis line numbers, Employee Assistance Program resources, self-awareness, mental health and emotional intelligence during safety meetings and toolbox talks.
  5. Introduce crisis resources at orientation. Let employees know that they are entering a jobsite where they can get resources to talk. Provide the crisis line numbers by distributing hard hat stickers with numbers and text options.
  6. Address mental health in the crisis management plan. Include information in company’s crisis management plan that gives employees checklists, escalation and notification paths, and training that lets people know what to do if someone experiences a mental health crisis.
  7. Discuss access to mental healthcare. Communicate company health benefits that will help people find therapy or provide access to activities that promote mental health wellness. Discuss EAP information, substance abuse secession programs, and encourage proactive approaches to personal resiliency like exercise and hobby engagement.
  8. Promote the program. Curate marketing materials and raise awareness about the program by posting banners at accesses to the jobsite, communication boards, first aid kits and bathrooms.
  9. Break the stigma. Foster a professional environment where people know that it is safe and encouraged to talk if they are experiencing a crisis. Reiterate to employees that designated listeners can connect them with resources to overcome personal situations.
  10. Expand the effort outside the office. There are local chapters of suicide prevention organizations that can provide resources such as training, publications, and local call and walk-in centers. There may also be opportunities to collaborate with like-minded people and form an organization that can be helpful to the industry.

Incorporating a suicide prevention plan into a company’s operations can help improve the safety the construction workforce, industry, communities and families. By providing education, professional training and raising awareness of suicide risk factors, businesses can destigmatize mental health conversations in the workplace and help in reversing the devasting suicide rates in the construction industry.

by Steve Frost
Steve Frost joined the construction safety world after going back to school at the age of 25 and obtaining a Master’s in Environmental Studies. He also obtained a certification in Construction Management and is a LEED AP BD+C, CHST, ASP, and CSP. In 2017, he joined Howard S. Wright, a Balfour Beatty company, as a Safety Manager for the Portland area. One area that Steve felt drawn to is mental health and the impacts to the construction industry. For more information on Steve Frost and his efforts to combat suicide in the construction industry, please visit Balfour Beatty’s website. 

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