New York contractors call for mental wellness training and construction suicide reporting legislation

An association that claims to represent 1,200 union contractors in New York, US, has called for the City of New York to include mental wellness within the training construction workers receive and to report on suicides within the industry.

Worker on construction site looking sunset in the city. Image: Generated with AI by ThKimNgn via AdobeStock

The Building Trades Employers’ Association (BTEA) made the call as part of a package of proposals amid news that construction workers have the highest rate of suicide of any occupation in the US.

They are nearly six times more likely to die from suicide than from job site-related injuries. They are also four times more likely to commit suicide than the average American, according to figures published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last year.

At its Safebuild Conference held on 27 June, the BTEA called for a series of reforms including:

  • NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene to report annually on suicides categorized by industry
  • NYC Department of Buildings to incorporate mental wellness into Site Safety Training Program
  • Require mental wellness be discussed as part of on-site safety orientations
  • Require Naloxone (Narcan) be available on larger construction sites to treat drug overdoses
  • The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) to include mental wellness within their OSHA-10 and OSHA-30 training

BTEA president and CEO Elizabeth Crowley said, “Mental wellness and suicide prevention are uncomfortable topics, especially in the construction industry.

“People don’t like to discuss it, but we need to talk about it. Construction workers have the highest rates of suicide among any occupation in the country, and we implore our City, State and federal leaders to strengthen protections for these essential workers who serve as the backbone of our country’s prosperity.”

BTEA executive vice president Patrick A. Wehle added, “Approximately 390,000 construction workers in New York City and countless nationally are required to have safety training, but none of that training includes mental wellness.

“This is a tremendous, missed opportunity that, if corrected, will save lives.”

Bob Gebbia, CEO of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), which is working in partnership with Bechtel on a construction suicide prevention initiative said, “America’s hard working construction professionals are vital to our nation’s future, and tragically, we are losing so many in the industry to suicide.

“At AFSP, we are providing critical mental health resources and programming to reach 500,000 construction workers across the country over the next five years. And we support the proposals offered by the BTEA, which will connect construction workers to mental health and suicide prevention training and ensure life-saving treatment is available on construction sites. We applaud BTEA for its focus on mental health and look forward to working with them to help save lives.”

Why employers are being urged to store Naloxone to counteract opioid overdoses on jobsites Why the National Safety Council and AGC are urging construction employers to store anti-opioid drugs like Narcan on construction jobsites.

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