Mar 06, 2023
Macho Men and Saving Lives in the Paving Industry
By now, you may have heard the sobering statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The construction industry is leading all other professions in the suicide epidemic rocking the nation, losing the equivalent of 10 to 11 workers per day, not to accidents, but to suicide.
Let’s look at some truths together with the goal of helping one another in the field.
The construction industry employs predominantly men and those men, in general, are hesitant to share feelings. I’m willing to bet you won’t begin this toolbox talk with your crew asking anyone to share how he’s “feeling” about stressors in his personal life. To be fair, that question is better posed in a private setting, not in a group, but you get the point.
Thus, when a crewmember is struggling with a personal issue that takes his mind away from safe practices or distracts him from watching out for his assigned buddy in the work zone, it may take an accident for anyone to recognize the mental health disruption in their co-worker. Instead of passively waiting for a near miss—or worse—to indicate a worker is distracted by stressors or depression, managers can implement mental health wellness as part of the company’s safety culture.
The individuals on the paving crew, in the lab, at the plant, in the quarry and so on, are typically members of a culture that takes pride in providing for and safeguarding the people in their lives. These “macho men” in an asphalt company may not be quick to share personal feelings, but they are generally quick to assist a friend in need. They are the members of the community who step up and rebuild when there’s a disaster. They are the pillars of our society who work to keep others safe on the nation’s roads and bridges. If a crewmember is struggling, they will be one of the first to step forward and help.
Our industry has this positive and amazing pool to pull from when building a culture of caring. Who can you identify on your crew to lead in constructing a culture of suicide prevention?
It would be an honor to speak with those crewmembers at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG safety and health panel discussion SH11 Thursday, March 16, at 10:45 a.m., in rooms 216-218 of the West Hall. I am only one of the four panelists who will be sharing ideas and information in that session, and I welcome you to join us. Here’s the direct link for more information and to register.
Whether or not you can attend the various health and safety sessions in Las Vegas, you can get more information and sign the Suicide in Construction Awareness Proclamation at our website. Ajax Paving’s Vince Hafeli launched this proclamation for the purpose of raising awareness and expanding useful conversations around the topic of suicide prevention and mental health wellness. Join in the discussion here: https://theasphaltpro.com/suicideprevention/.
If you or a colleague needs immediate help, please call or text the suicide and crisis lifeline at 988. There are professional counselors available 24/7 to talk.
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