Business

Construction workers find helpful mate

TRUE FRIENDS: Apprenticeships QLD safety officer Donna Templeton (left) and employment consultant Nadine Muller welcome field officer Phil Hortz from Mates in Construction.
TRUE FRIENDS: Apprenticeships QLD safety officer Donna Templeton (left) and employment consultant Nadine Muller welcome field officer Phil Hortz from Mates in Construction. Rob Williams

NOBODY said life as a construction worker was easy. In fact, figures suggest the stresses of the job can tip many people over the edge.

An Australian Institute of Suicide Research and Prevention report from 2006 found that construction workers were six times more likely to take their own life than they were to die from an industrial accident.

This dreadful statistic prompted a drastic reaction from the Building Employees Redundancy Trust, which formed suicide awareness and prevention group, Mates in Construction, in 2008.

The organisation has grown steadily over the past six years, to the point where it has recently gone national in its efforts to partner up with construction industry groups across Australia.

Apprenticeships Queensland has become one of the most recent to participate in the program, with 20 staff inducted on March 18.

Of those 20, eight took part in the "connector" course, which provides additional information on how to deal with a crisis situation.

Apprenticeships Queensland spokeswoman Anita Dwyer said the training would allow employees to identify people who were at risk and talk to them about how they could find help.

"The statistics for suicide in the construction industry are horrific," Mrs Dwyer said.

"I think it has a lot to do with the uncertain nature of the industry - it can be tough.

"Then sometimes you can do all your work and you still don't get paid."

Young men in the construction industry are at the highest risk of suicide.

The AISRAP report shows those aged 15-24 are 10 times more likely to commit suicide than die in a work accident.

Mates in Construction field officer Phil Hortz said the program had been implemented at worksites across Ipswich, including the Icon tower, Bunnings Warehouse West Ipswich and Springfield's Orion Shopping Centre, Mater Hospital and rail line.

"It is really an awareness program," Mr Hortz said.

"If someone is doing it tough, what does that look like and how can you help?"

Mates in Construction has a 24-hour help line, however help can also be provided in person.

"We are the connection through to further help as well," Mr Hortz said. "We try to be the mate that keeps another mate safe while connecting them to help."

Suicide Prevention Australia CEO Sue Murray said there was a wide range of support available from organisations working in mental health and suicide prevention to assist employers to prepare for and respond to suicide.

"We have seen outstanding leadership from the construction, rail and superannuation industries and as a result these groups are leading the way in workplace suicide prevention in Australia," Ms Murray said in an SPA position statement in February this year.

The stats

  • According to Suicide Prevention Australia, most deaths by suicide are among people of working age
  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for men aged 25-44 and women 25-34
  • Estimated one in 20 construction industry workers will contemplate suicide each year

Topics:  apprenticeships queensland suicide prevention



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