The deaths of more than 500,000 Americans, shortages on essential supplies, a recession, wearing face masks, social distancing and the inability to visit loved ones are taking a toll on employees.
These are fraught and uncertain times for everyone, but these feelings of being overwhelmed, stressed and burnout can be exacerbated among construction workers, who are unfortunately all too familiar with physical and mental health challenges.
Many construction workers do not have paid sick time, may not have health care, may have language barriers and other socioeconomic factors that leave them at greater risk for contracting COVID-19 and fewer resources for getting medical care if needed.
Health data has found people of color have been disproportionally affected by the pandemic, and that stress can carry over into the workplace. That’s especially concerning for the construction industry, which already has high risk of injury, suicide and mental health crisis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has acknowledged the continued toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on construction workers with a notable recent revision to its guidelines: the addition of mental health on its employer and employee checklists.
In its Construction COVID-19 Safety Checklist for Employers, the CDC recommends talking openly with employees and/or unions about the pandemic is affecting work, watching for behavior changes in employees and having a system in place to provide mental health services to employees in need.
In its Construction COVID-19 Safety Checklist for Employees, the CDC notes that common factors that can add to stress during a pandemic include:
- Concern about the risk of being exposed to the virus at work.
- Lack of access to the tools and equipment needed to perform your job.
- Conflict at home.
- Failure to take time to relax.
- Feeling that you are not contributing enough to work or guilt about not being on the frontline.
- Uncertainty about the future of your workplace and/or employment.
- Adapting to a different workspace and/or work schedule.
If you or someone you know has expressed thoughts of self-harm, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or the Online Lifeline Crisis Chat.