Breaking the deadly code of silence

The introduction of drug testing is a much-discussed topic in the building industry. The new building code will soon make drug testing mandatory on building sites where the Federal Government’s contribution is at least $5 million. The scope of this policy may be widened further as time goes on.

Many argue that this is a step in the right direction given the alarming statistics. Construction workers are more than twice as likely to commit suicide as compared with the general population (Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention). The rate of substance abuse is also highest in the construction sector (2007 Australian Bureau of Statistics).

One of the keys to improving the mental health of construction workers is to break the deadly code of silence. The male-dominated “macho” environment and associated stigma discourages individuals to speak up. As a result, issues can be internalised and magnified – leading to anxiety, depression, substance abuse and even suicide.

If an employee tests positive in a random drug test, organisations that have a zero tolerance policy can dismiss the person right away. However, organisations that adopt a more holistic wellness policy can offer the person a second chance with counselling and treatment to address the issue.

This is where Holyoake’s 40 year experience and expertise can play a positive role. It is a member of the Master Builders’ Health Alliance and understands the needs of the sector. In addition to counselling, Holyoake offers Wellbeing@Work and Fit4Work sessions for managers and staff which are informative and experiential.

The introduction of the new building code is an opportunity for forward-thinking managers to review their health and wellness policies. A positive approach will not only improve employee wellbeing, but also enhance safety, productivity and safeguard the reputation of organisations and the building sector as a whole.

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