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Construction workers face increasing stress

European research body claims UK accident record is adding to builders'problem

WORK-RELATED stress in construction is on the increase because of time pressure and extreme working conditions, according to the European Institute for Construction Labour Research.

In a new report called Stress in the European Construction Sector: Up to the minute? , the institute highlights the industry's poor accident record and 'just get on with it'attitude as leading to an 'alarming' rise in suicides.

It stated: 'The itinerant nature of many senior, high-pressure construction positions means that employees often find themselves alone, away from family and friends for weeks.

'On top of this the diverse nature of construction means that many small contractors and the self-employed are under immense pressure.'

The report - which analyses industry stress levels across several European countries - picks out site foremen and middle managers as vulnerable to stress due to the unpredictable and complex circumstances of their job.

Site workers in repetitive jobs with high physical demands are also seen as at risk.

The institute urges the industry to address the 'fragmentation and uncertainty created by a triangle of subcontracting' in order to combat stress levels.

It is estimated that around 460,000 UK workers in total have complained of work-related stress.

But now the Health and Safety Executive is commissioning its own research on the prevalence and distribution of stress in the construction sector.

Keith Guy, director of stress management specialist Red Poppy, said that the construction industry should do far more to look after the mental health of its workforce to cut down on stress and absenteeism.

Red Poppy carried out a site debriefing for workers on Skanska's Walsgrave hospital project in Coventry following a death last year and is urging the Major Contractors Group to adopt a standard approach to dealing with site trauma.

Mr Guy said: 'When something like this happens on a site it shouldn't just be a matter of saying 'let's get back to work' - the accident traumatised a lot of workers.

'As far as we know, this was the first psychological debriefing for construction workers. All companies should have professional procedures in place to deal with the psychological aftermath when an accident occurs.'