The construction industry could be facing a “perfect storm” of mental health issues according to John Kilgour, CEO, Civil Contractors Federation (CCF) Victoria. With the expectation that the construction industry will carry a significant responsibility of leading the state out of the financial crisis of COVID, CCF wants to make sure it does so with industry-leading wellbeing initiatives.

“We have cultural heritage plans, energy efficiency plans and COVID-safe plans but we think it is time construction businesses to have a mental health action plan,” says Kilgour. “We need to make a pledge to make mental health and wellbeing a priority in the workplace.”

Kilgour’s perfect storm refers to the fact that construction is already a high-stress industry. In 2018 a Swinburne University showed that average levels of depression, anxiety and stress in construction workers exceeded population norms by 40 per cent for depression, 38 per cent for anxiety and 37 per cent for stress. And this high stakes industry has been super charged with billions of dollars in new infrastructure programs designed to stimulate a COVID-struck economy

As the state’s peak civil construction body, CCF Victoria thinks there is more that can be done on mental health – and it has some industry-leading ideas. CCF Victoria has convened a Positive Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit on March 25 to make sure that construction workers are as mentally healthy as they are physically safe.

“The importance of taking a prevention led approach and creating and sustaining mentally healthy workplaces is an increasing point of focus for businesses in a multitude of sectors across Australia,” says John Kilgour, CEO – Civil Contractors Federation Victoria. “The construction industry is one of those sectors where there is an opportunity and need for change in the way projects are procured, planned and delivered. 

Recognising the importance of directly addressing these issues, CCF Victoria is taking the initiative to support owners and managers in the civil construction industry to create mentally healthy workplaces by assisting them to develop mental health action plans for businesses that can be used as demonstration of their capability when they tender for projects.”

These action plans are the first of their kind in the construction industry and they are being co-designed with input from all parts of the construction industry.

Leading a conversation of possibility

Tim Bishop, Construction Manager at BMD knows how important it is to share the mental health load and is using his own experiences and position as a Construction Manager to shift the focus on workplace activities to prevention.   

“People don’t understand how stressful it is to explain what’s going on in your head when you don’t understand it yourself,” says Bishop.” I am now slowly getting better and I want use my role as a leader to create mentally healthy workplaces in the civil construction industry.” 

Professor Shantha M. Wilson Rajaratnam from the Turner Institute and Monash University says one critical factor the construction industry needs to consider are the demands of construction work and the need for proper rest.

“Within the construction sector, there is a need to adopt prevention focused and evidence-based sleep and fatigue programs to reduce the substantial health and productivity impacts,” says Professor Rajaratnam. He is currently looking at tools and approaches to the way work rosters and shift work is planned and managed to prevent mental injury in the construction industry.

As Bishop discovered, one of the most important things to do is to bring this issue to light and to make sure there is no taboo to talking about mental health issues. To this end the CCF Victoria summit is designed to bring industry leaders together to highlight the issue and to make changes.

Available for comment

John Kilgour, CEO, Civil Contractors Federation Victoria

Contact Paul Chai, Good Talent Media, 0476 239 031

The CCF Positive Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit takes place on March 25 between 8.30am and 4pm at Caulfield Racecourse

The CCF Positive Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit is part of Positive Plans – Positive Futures a prevention focused mental health initiative supported by WorkSafe’s WorkWell Mental Health Improvement Fund.For more information about Positive Plans – Positive Futures –