How to address psychological health and safety in construction

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Thursday, 3 June, 2021 - 12:15
Industry news
National News

There is often a stigma associated with talking about mental health and wellness within the construction industry, and leaders play an important role in overcoming this and improving associated outcomes in the sector, according to an expert.

“I think the impact on poor mental health on the Australian workplace is far deeper than we actually recognise,” said Janet McCulloch, strategic consultant for Lysander, a consulting firm which specialises in leadership development and organisational culture transformation.

“We don’t often hear about it in the infrastructure/construction industry because its significantly male, and we still have a stigma about how willing we are to talk about mental health and wellness,” said McCulloch, who was speaking ahead of an AIHS webinar on an integrated approach to wellness – creating systemic cultural change for the construction industry which will be held on Wednesday 23 June 2021.

Gaps are present in the everyday activities of leadership, and McCulloch said a simple conversation, how they talk to their people and how they leave them feeling are all important.

“It’s all critical and we see the results on this with someone’s mental health,” she said.

“On a higher level the gaps and challenges are in the strategic decisions they make that affect people in the organisation.”

One of the simplest but most important steps for leaders is to become a better role model.

“You model the behaviours that deliver the desired culture [and] build cohesive and aligned leadership by displaying those behaviours,” she said.

McCulloch observed mental health is simply a part of the broader practice of OHS, and as such, OHS professionals can play an important role in mental health and wellbeing strategies.

“Helping OHS professionals feel more confident that they can include mental health risk management in their existing health and safety management system will help support the preventive approach, just like physical safety,” said McCulloch.

Lysander conducts a 9-month program for organisations, and she said this is underpinned by one-on-one coaching.

“Core to all of that is the culture strategy piece, which lays out on a single page the vision, the purpose, the behaviours and the objectives, that any project or business has as its foundation,” said McCulloch.

“When we have a workplace with positive mental health, what we actually get is a direct correlation with performance. Performance equals productivity. Productivity equals commercial results.

“So there is now real evidence to say that investing in wellbeing and mental health has a direct result on your bottom line. This is an opportunity for every organisation to invest in the wellness of their people.

“We can prevent the very real and devastating impact that mental health-related issues can have in the workplace,” said McCulloch.


McCulloch will be speaking at an AIHS webinar on an integrated approach to wellness – creating systemic cultural change for the construction industry which will be held on Wednesday 23 June 2021. For more information call (03) 8336 1995, email or visit the event website.