Construction and engineering industries focus on disability and mental health this November

01 November 2018

Health and safety organisation British Safety Council is calling on employers to commit themselves to protecting their workers’ mental wellbeing and investing in line managers’ mental health training.

While Mike Robinson, Chief Executive of the British Safety Council acknowledges that: “The also stated “there is no room for complacency” as “only 43 per cent of people with mental health issues are in regular employment, compared with 74 per cent of the general population (NHS England).


Building construction site and birds


“Furthermore, 80 days is the average length of time which young people have to wait to start treatment in mental health services (Mind). For someone who could be contemplating suicide, 80 days is a very long time.”

Despite some worrying predictions for the future and impacts of Brexit, the construction industry remains critical to UK economy. It is the fourth largest sector by turnover and fifth largest by employment.

Estimates of the actual numbers employed vary but with them ranging from 1.8 million according to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) to 2.3 million (Labour Force Survey), the volume is nothing but substantial. If we add estimates relating to disability and long term conditions, according to the Labour Force Survey (April to June 2017), 9.3 per cent of the workforce in the construction sector are disabled.

Business Disability Forum already has some major construction companies within our membership, which together represent an estimated 350, 000 employees globally, and over 30 members in allied industrial sectors; manufacturing, engineering, mining and utilities and we are keen to support the sector to do more.

Skills shortages mean that it has never been more important to ensure recruitment is all inclusive. The sector must reach out to all.

Chartered Institute of Building report that UK construction has suffered skills shortages for a number of years. In the same statement, CIOB estimates that the industry will need to find 157,000 new recruits by 2021 to keep up with current projects and growth. Findings from the Employer Skills Survey (UKESS) in 2017 corroborate this, with 54% of employers reporting skills shortages in the construction sector and half of these reporting loss of business to competitors as a result – so it is more important than ever that the industry reaches out to the widest possible talent pool, including disabled talent.

Managing disability and long term health conditions in the workforce is also a key consideration.

Mental health is a major condition affecting this sector and the construction industry lifestyle is noted for being challenging and stressful for employees. This is further compounded by the risks associated with men and mental health; for men between the ages of 15 and 49 suicide is now the leading cause of death and it has been reported that male site workers in construction are three times more likely to commit suicide than the average UK male.

And, of course, a lack of support has an economic impact too.  The Health and Safety Executive has previously placed mental health at top ranking in the reasons for working days lost and in October this year, the British Safety Council warned that there are not that there are not enough provisions to keep people who experience mental ill-health in employment.

This November, Business Disability Forum CEO Diane Lightfoot will be speaking at both the IET’s (Institute of Engineering and Technology) Engineering diversity and inclusion conference (9 November) and The British Safety Council’s 10th annual conference (14 November) on what employers within the construction industry can do to attract disabled talent to support disabled employees within the workplace, with a particular focus on those who may have a mental health condition. Diane will be providing practical hints and tips on how to attract disabled talent and how to retain and support your disabled staff in employment, e.g. through the training of line managers to spot the signs of mental ill health and how to make workplace adjustments.


For further information on these events please visit:

Engineering diversity and inclusion: Challenging companies to deliver equality on all fronts (8-9 November)

The 10th British Safety Council annual conference: health and safety in uncertain times (14 November)


To learn more about Business Disability Forum and how we can help you support your staff, please contact: