Managing company responsibility for mental health in the New Zealand construction industry
Carson, Victoria; Davies, Kathryn
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Citation:Carson, V., & Davies, K. (2019). Managing company responsibility for mental health in the New Zealand construction industry. CIB World Building Congress 2019 Constructing Smart Cities, Vol. 03 Smart Planning, Design & Construction (pp. 11pp).
Permanent link to Research Bank record:https://hdl.handle.net/10652/4720
Health and safety in the construction industry has traditionally had a strong emphasis on safety, with the health aspect receiving little attention beyond high profile issues related to asbestos and silica. More recently, however, studies and initiatives in several countries have identified the mental health of construction workers as an area that warrants greater attention. In New Zealand, new legislation on workplace health and safety which was implemented in 2016 explicitly includes non-physical harms in its scope, so employers are required to consider the mental health of their workers as part of providing a safe workplace. This paper provides a cross-case comparison of mental health awareness and initiatives in two New Zealand construction companies. The first company is a Tier 1 management only main contractor, while the second is a Tier 2 company which is involved in full construction activities and operates both as a main contractor and sub-contractor. The health and safety policies and procedures of both companies were analyzed, and a range of company representatives were interviewed including human resources managers, health and safety managers, office and site staff. Managers and staff at both case study companies expressed varying degrees of understanding of company obligations under the legislation and considered it difficult to take practical steps to fulfil their responsibilities. The Tier 2 company in particular struggled with identifying and managing the needs of the wide range of employees represented. The shared responsibility between human resources and health and safety representatives was seen as a complicating factor for both companies. Despite the challenges, the case studies offered insights into potential best practice in the area, and recommendations are provided for improving performance in workplace mental health in construction.