For as much as general contractors and their subcontractor partners prioritize safety on the job site, the reality is that accidents do happen. The construction industry is one of the most dangerous industries to work in, with a high risk of accidents, injuries, and deaths. When these losses occur, most care, attention, and concern are directed at the victims and their families, and rightly so. However, co-workers in these instances are also suffering the loss of colleagues or friends, whether to injury or something worse. 

Coping with grief and loss can be difficult, especially in a high-pressure work environment like construction. However, there are resources and strategies available to help workers manage their emotions and find support following a work-related catastrophe. 

Types of Accidents and Loss in the Construction Industry

Construction work is physically demanding and requires workers to operate heavy machinery and equipment, work at heights, and handle hazardous materials. These conditions make construction workers more susceptible to accidents and injuries, some of which can be fatal. The most common types of construction accidents include falls, electrocutions, and accidents involving heavy machinery.

In addition to accidents, workers in the construction industry are also at risk of developing occupational illnesses due to exposure to toxic substances such as asbestos and silica. These illnesses can take years to develop and can be debilitating or even fatal.

Impact on Coworkers’ Mental Health

When a coworker dies or is injured in a construction accident, it can have a profound impact on their colleagues’ mental health. Workers may experience feelings of shock, sadness, anger, and guilt, and may struggle to cope with the loss of a friend or colleague. These emotions can have a significant impact on their mental health and well-being and can affect their ability to work effectively.

Strategies for Coping with Grief and Loss

Coping with grief and loss is a difficult process, but there are strategies that workers in the construction industry can use to manage their emotions and find support. These include:

  1. Talk about it: Talking to colleagues, friends, or a therapist can be helpful in processing emotions and finding support.
  2. Take care of yourself: Workers should prioritize self-care, such as getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising.
  3. Seek professional support: If needed, workers should seek professional support, such as counseling or therapy, to manage their emotions and cope with the loss.
  4. Connect with others: Joining a support group or connecting with others who have experienced a similar loss can provide comfort and support.

Resources for Support

There are several resources available to help workers in the construction industry cope with grief and loss, including:

  1. The Construction Industry Alliance of Suicide Prevention (CIASP): CIASP is an organization with a mission to provide and disseminate information and resources for suicide prevention and mental health promotion in construction with the goal of creating a zero suicide industry.
  2. Construction Working Minds: Construction Working Mind is an organization with a mission to make suicide prevention a health and safety priority in the construction industry with resources on prevention, crisis response, and grief support. 
  3.  SAMHSA’s National Helpline:  SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
  4. Mental Health America: A nonprofit organization providing resources and support for mental health issues, including grief and loss.
  5. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP): The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is a voluntary health organization that gives those affected by suicide a nationwide community empowered by research, education, and advocacy to take action against this leading cause of death.

Construction is a high-risk industry where accidents and losses are unfortunately a reality. Coping with grief and loss can be difficult, but workers can find support and strategies to manage their emotions and take care of their mental health. By prioritizing self-care, seeking professional support, and connecting with others, workers can navigate the difficulties that arise when disaster strikes.