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William Stobbs, Director of Health and Safety Quality and Environment, at Esh Construction.

Esh Construction is backing the industry-wide efforts to open up the dialogue on mental health, as workers continue to combat the mental strain of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Speaking about mental health anxieties is the best way to alleviate your own concerns, according to the firm’s Director of Health and Safety Quality and Environment, William Stobbs. 

The male-centric construction sector has long been criticised for not doing enough to support its workers. And with Office for National Statistics reporting that at least one construction worker a day takes their own life in the UK, speaking ahead of Time to Talk Day 2021, William believes more needs to be done to get the conversation going.

William, who has been with Esh Construction for 17 years and has seen a number of changes brought in to support staff, said: “There is more focus throughout the group and wider sector on supporting wellbeing. We want to get the message out to the wider community, to our employees and our subcontractors not to suffer in silence.

“It’s only really in the last few years that the conversation on mental health has come to the fore. We’re all aware of it these days and, in the current climate, it’s on every news bulletin, which shows great progress.”

Esh Construction has a team of 37 mental health first aiders who are trained by MHFA England. The firm, which has over 700 employees, provides regular updates to staff about managing their mental health and openly promotes conversation among its workforce. Site toolbox talks encourage workers to down tools, learn about the support available and tactics on how they could manage any mental health difficulties they may experience now or in the future.  

While the team of mental health first aiders have been unable to hold face-to-face meetings with staff through the COVID-19 pandemic, they continue to reach out to team members who are showing signs of mental fatigue.

The industry is now putting measures in place to reduce this statistic and get workers talking. The Construction Industry Helpline app and the CALMS helpline are actively encouraged by Esh Construction, while EmployeeCare provides access to confidential counselling and work life services.

William said: “We’re encouraging people to have those conversations, even if it’s just a couple of minutes to maybe ring someone up and ask how they are doing. If you observe someone at work that doesn’t seem to be their normal self, take them away from other people and just have a chat with them. It might be something that’s nothing major or serious but, at the end of the day, we must show compassion.”

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