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Written by
on 05 September 2017

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In many organisations, health and safety measures are deployed to protect employees against physical dangers. Touchy-feely subjects based on emotions are left to the human resources department.

Unfortunately, this means your health and safety policies can become unbalanced. The mental well-being of your employees is just as important as the physical. And your frameworks must take account of this fact.

Banter is usually harmless…

One issue that has a significant bearing on the physical and mental well-being of your workers is bullying. Banter is commonplace on constructions sites, and is an important tool for team building and making hard physical work more enjoyable. Some pranks are light hearted, posing minimal risk to anyone:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEbDOhh3ysE

But others could get out of hand very quickly:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuGDNmYcE_A

Aggressive jokes designed to “train” the apprentice tend to be ineffective. They may well remember the prank – but usually for the wrong reasons.

…bullying is not

When a prank gets out of hand, or one employee is continually the butt of jokes, banter quickly becomes bullying. Victimising individuals can be dangerous – pranks become more extreme, increasing the risk of injury for instance.

Bullying also has a long-term effect on the mental well-being of its victims. Depressed workers present an increased danger to themselves, and employers need to be aware of the dangers.

The construction industry has a disproportionately high rate of suicide. Seeing as bullying and suicide have been shown to be related, out-of-control banter could actually prove fatal.

Time to work more closely with HR

Stamping out bullying in the workplace is usually left to HR – but your health and safety coordinator can assist. Using their experience of monitoring work practices, your coordinator can help to create anti-bullying frameworks and guidance that address issues that really do occur on-site.

The HR department can also help to develop training to be delivered as part of the standard induction process, showing employees how to respond to bullying behaviour, and to report incidents. Team leaders can then tasked with ensuring standards of behaviour are being upheld.

Health and safety is a company-wide concern, and everyone can play their part. In the case of bullying, everyone can help to stamp out unacceptable behaviour – in doing so they help to reduce the risk of physical and mental injury to their colleagues.

Splitting responsibility for mental and physical safety is no longer an option either. Behaviour that causes physical or mental harm has an effect on the victim that affects their overall well-being – the two aspects cannot be separated. Your team will need to work closely to create a holistic approach that protects both aspects of the employee’s welfare.

To learn more about the psychological and behavioural aspects of Construction site safety, please get in touch.

Chartered health and safety consultant. 20+ years helping busy people in construction and the built environment. David provides how-to articles, advice and guidance to help explain and make compliance easier for clients. A solutionist with a brain you can pick. And you can easily get in touch with David on social media Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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