A mental health awareness program has been launched to help central Victorian construction businesses implement action plans to improve outcomes for workers.
Positive Futures was launched by the Civil Contractors Federation after research finding construction workers were six times more likely to commit suicide on a work site than be injured fatally in the normal course of their work.
Kilmore's NVC Precast general manager business and finance Ortensio Caroli said his experience of working in a white collar role for 30 years before transitioning to construction demonstrated a stark difference in mental health support in the industry.
"The amount of time and effort available in the corporate landscape can cover gaps and they generally have more resources to provide proactive programs and mentorships than a family-run construction business," he said.
"When we saw the CCF program, we jumped on board straight away. We sent our safety health environment and quality systems manager to a seminar and she came back gleaming with what she heard and the resources we didn't even know were available to us.
"We have since encouraged workers to access the help links available and they've reported positively back to us."
Mr Caroli said there is a cultural shift in the construction business already, but more can be done to help workers manage their mental health and wellbeing and potentially prevent a mental health crises.
The bravado of macho boys coming into the workplace and not talking about what they are going through in all areas of their life can't happen anymore.Ortensio Caroli
"We need to create environments where workers are happy to talk about their home life, marriage breakdown or whatever is going on that may impact their wellbeing.
"The senior people need to respect staff and work with them through the problems but at the same time they still need to run business and meet their deadlines.
"Which is why prevention is the best way to get this right and encouraging people to talk has to be led from the top."
CFF Victoria chief executive John Kilgour said there is a "perfect storm" brewing across construction as the coronavirus pandemic has led to unprecedented levels of building take place in an already a high-stress industry.
"We need action plans in place to drive cultural and organisational change," he said.
"Our perspective is to support businesses to implement mental health action plans, build those from the bottom up and develop tools and infrastructure to suit each individual business.
Over the next 10 years a report by the government and WorkSafe revealed that one-third of workcover claims will be related to mental health. The recovery time for these incidents can be months or even years.John Kilgour
"We're now seeing greater conversations around mental health whereas people used to suffer in silence.
"It is evident that proactive measures are needed in the workplace to focus on prevention."
CCF Victoria will support owners and managers in the civil construction industry to create mentally healthy workplaces by assisting them to develop mental health action plans for businesses.
These action plans are the first of their kind in the construction industry and they are being co-designed with input from all parts of the construction industry.
To register your interest in the Bendigo Positive Futures program head to ccfvic.com.au/positive-plans-positive-futures.
Positive Futures Project developed by CCF Victoria is a statewide initiative supported by WorkSafe's WorkWell Mental Health Improvement Fund.
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