HS2 calls for improved approach to mental health and wellbeing
Supply chain urged to innovate new standards in health, wellbeing and mental health.
Emma Head, HS2 Ltd’s Safety and Assurance Director said: “As an industry we rightly shout about safety, but whisper about wellbeing and mental health.
Safety standards have been continually improving in construction, but aspects of wellbeing lag behind. Mental health is often seen as taboo in wider society, and we want to help break that in the infrastructure industry.”
There are several mental health related issues within the industry, but understanding of these issues is constantly improving. Work related illness is a key issue, it costs construction section £848m a year and accounts for the greatest number of deaths in the industry – 100 times that of work related injury. In addition, the suicide rate among low-skilled male labourers is three times higher than the national average for men.
HS2 Ltd, the largest infrastructure project in Europe, already supports 7,000 jobs around the country and is working on 60 sites along the route between Birmingham and London. At peak construction 30,000 jobs will be supported in around 2023. The health and safety of these workers, and the general public, is vital to the success of the project.
Emma Head continued: “The scale of the issue is clear. HS2 will be a big part of the industry for well over a decade. At HS2 Ltd we can do our part as business leaders and as a client to a large supply chain. We are doing this. However, cultural change is just as important as setting policy. We can’t change culture on our own and need the supply chain to get behind us and work with us.”
HS2 Ltd has also unveiled a new health and safety approach, which sets out the principles it expects companies to adhere to, should they want to work with them now, and in the future.
These principles are organised around seven focus areas. These include workforce health and wellbeing, workforce safety, public and neighbour health and safety, safe operations, safe by design, SMART assurance and safe supply chain management.
Mark Thurston, Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd said: “We’re at a critical point in the project as works continue to ramp up, and now is the time to be talking with our current and future suppliers about Health, Safety and well-being. Recognising the scale and duration of HS2, we have the opportunity to work with the whole supply chain to leave a legacy of new standards for health and safety, for our industry.”