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SLC 2020 Q&A: Mental Health Safety

Nov. 3, 2020
Employers must act to raise awareness of mental health issues and offer resources; it can be a matter of life and death.

A goal for safety managers is for employees to return home safely.

Traditionally, that has resulted in a focus on physical safety, but it’s increasingly evident that safety must apply to mental health, too, especially suicide prevention and awareness.

Angela Cloud, safety engineer at McCownGordon Construction, will explain risk factors within the construction industry that can lead to suicidal tendencies as well as how the industry can respond to this mental health crisis.

During her session at the 2020 Safety Leadership Conference, which takes place Nov. 10-12 virtually, Cloud will describe how companies can intervene before tragedy strikes. She previews her session, “Crisis in Construction: Mental Health and Suicide Awareness,” co-presented with Kathleen Dobson, in a Q&A with EHS Today.

EHS Today: Can you offer us a short description of your presentation and describe how it relates to safety leadership?

Cloud: Kathi Dobson and I will be presenting about mental health and suicide awareness in the construction industry. As safety leaders, we play a key role in understanding what impacts the mental health of our greatest assets—our employees. It is essential that we understand what we can do to give our employees the help and resources they need to not only be safe on the job, but also in a safe state of mind.

Why is the topic of your presentation of interest to you and why is it important to SLC attendees?

This topic interests me because I believe this industry is in crisis. The construction industry has the second highest suicide rate of any occupation in the United States. We always encourage our individuals to be safe beyond work, and we always strive to send employees home in the same condition in which they arrived. We must understand this extends to more than just ladder safety or PPE, etc. Mental health plays just as important of a role in safety.

What are the takeaways you hope to leave with attendees?

I hope attendees take away a better understanding of the risk factors of suicide, including the opioid crises, and how we can all step in and make a difference in improving the mental health of our employees.

Please share an example of a personal or professional experience you’ve had related to safety leadership or the topic of your presentation.

I have the opportunity to work in the field amongst some of the hardest working men and women I have ever met. Through this, I have seen the strain this industry puts on individuals. I’m fortunate to be in a position in which I can recognize the risk factors, and I can step in to try and make a difference. I want to help equip others with that knowledge as well. We can all do our part to make a difference.

What do you think are some of the most pressing EHS and risk management issues facing corporate leaders and safety professionals in 2020 and beyond?

Given the current circumstances, I think the pandemic is the most pressing EHS and risk management issue facing all of us. It has shaped the way we do business, and it has taught us all a new way of keeping employees safe and healthy at work.

Please provide any additional insight or comments about your topic of discussion.

I am excited to have the opportunity to speak on such an important topic with safety leaders!

Editor’s Note: For more information on the 2020 Safety Leadership Conference, including registration, click here.

About the Author

Nicole Stempak

Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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