Stress Awareness Month: Safety Behind Hard Hats

In Construction, safety is synonymous with hard hats, high-vis vests, and stringent regulations as these are fundamental in protecting workers from physical harm. However, amidst the hustle and bustle of construction sites, there’s another, often overlooked aspect of safety – stress and mental well-being.

Stress is a common issue in any workplace, but it can be especially prevalent in the construction industry. With tight deadlines, physically demanding tasks, and constant pressures, it’s no wonder this can take a toll on workers mental well-being. According to Mates in Mind, a third of construction workers suffer from elevated levels of anxiety every day. Unchecked stress can have serious consequences for both individuals and companies. Beyond the immediate impact of on mental health, prolonged stress can lead to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher turnover rates. Addressing stress and promoting well-being is not just about caring for your workers – it’s also about safeguarding your company and your bottom line.

In this article, we’ll explore why it’s important to pay attention to mental well-being and stress awareness in the construction industry. We’ll discuss how stress impacts workers, recognise its signs, and provide practical strategies for creating a healthier and safer work environment.

Understanding the stressors in construction

Within construction, the challenges extend beyond the physical demands of the job. One significant stressor is the constant pressure to meet tight deadlines. As construction projects often operate on strict deadlines, there is little room for error or delay. As a result, workers may experience heightened stress levels as they strive to complete tasks within constrained timeframes.

Additionally, the physically demanding nature of construction work itself can contribute to stress. From heavy lifting and potentially high-risk work to harsh weather conditions, workers face a range of physical challenges that can take a toll on both their bodies, and minds. On top of this, high numbers of construction workers are self-employed, and as construction projects are temporary, job insecurity and uncertainty about future employment opportunities are also stressors.

The Health and Safety Executive outlines further causes of stress at work here.

Stress Awareness - Construction workers lifting heavy material

Recognising the signs of stress

While stress is a common experience in the construction industry, it’s essential to recognise the signs and symptoms that indicate when it becomes overwhelming. Identifying stress in oneself and others is important for addressing it effectively. Here are some common signs and symptoms to look out for:

  • Mood Changes: Increased irritability, mood swings, aggression, or feelings of agitation.
  • Physical Symptoms: Headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, or physical discomfort.
  • Behavioural Symptoms: Withdrawal, decreased work engagement, decreased motivation, or low energy.
  • Attendance Issues: Increased lateness, absenteeism, or presenteeism (being physically present but not fully productive)
  • Cognitive Functions: Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or problem solving.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns.

Paying attention to these signs and symptoms can help individuals and employers identify when stress levels are escalating and take proactive steps to address stress and promote mental well-being in the workplace.

Stress awareness - lone worker on construction sites

Strategies for promoting stress awareness

Promoting stress awareness is essential for creating a healthier and safer work environment in construction. We have listed below some practical strategies you could consider:

  • Education and Training: Provide workers with information about stress management techniques and resources for seeking support. Offer training sessions or workshops on topics such as stress awareness, mindfulness, and coping strategies. Examples of mental health training can be found on the Building Mental Health website.
  • Open Communication: Encourage open communication between workers and management to address stressors and concerns effectively. Create a supportive environment where workers feel comfortable discussing their mental health and seeking help where needed.
  • Stress Reduction Initiatives: Consider implementing stress reduction initiatives, such as wellness programs, or on-site relaxation activities. Encourage workers to prioritise self-care activities outside of work, such as exercise, hobbies or spending time with loved ones.
  • Supportive Leadership: Train supervisors and managers to recognise signs of stress in their teams and provide support and guidance accordingly. Encourage leaders to lead by example, practicing self-care and promoting a healthy work-life balance.
  • Support Networks: Facilitate peer support networks or buddy systems where workers can connect with and support each other. Encourage teamwork and camaraderie to foster a sense of belonging and mutual support on-site.
  • Access to Resources: Ensure workers have access to resources for seeking professional help if needed, such as employee assistance programs (EAPs), counselling services, or mental health hotlines. Some examples of these include Lighthouse, Mates in Mind, and the Samaritans.

The Health and Safety Executive emphasise the role of education and training in managing stress in the workplace. There are lots of helpful resources available including their Talking Toolkit – providing some helpful tips on how to start conversations with employees about stress-related subjects.

Employers and Supervisors play a pivotal role in creating a supportive work environment that promotes mental well-being. Leadership buy-in is crucial, as it sets the tone for the organisations culture and values towards the subject matter. When leaders prioritise stress awareness and demonstrate a genuine commitment to supporting employees, it filters down to all workers. This buy-in could be actioned through the implementation of policies and programs specifically designed to address stress concerns. These could include:

Creating Supportive Work Environments

  • Clear Job Roles and Responsibilities: Ensure that every employee understands their role and responsibilities to avoid confusion and reduce stress.
  • Manage Workload: Avoid overloading employees with tasks to percent them from working over-time or taking work home, contributing to a healthier work-life balance.
  • Realistic Deadlines: Set achievable deadlines to reduce pressure and minimise stress among employees.
  • Promote Work-Life Balance: Create an environment where employees feel encouraged to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
  • Respect and Recognition: Treat colleagues and employees with respect, acknowledge their accomplishments, and implement an employee recognition scheme.
  • Open Communication: Make mental health and stress discussions a regular part of company communication, and actively encourage it to create a supportive environment where employees feel comfortable.
  • Employee Assistance Programs: Offer employee assistance programs to provide confidential support and counselling services to employees facing personal or work-related challenges.
  • Additional Resources: Ensure the availability and promotion of additional resources, including mental health hotlines, wellness workshops or webinars, mental health apps, and educational materials and toolkits.

By offering a range of additional resources, employers can support employees in addressing their stressors and accessing appropriate support services as needed.

Stress aware - team of construction workers


In summary, prioritising stress awareness and mental well-being alongside physical safety is important in creating a healthier and safer work environment. By recognising and addressing the unique stressors faced by construction workers and implementing strategies to support their mental health, employers can create a workplace where employees feel valued, respected, and supported.

Remember, safety on construction sites extends beyond hard hats. It also includes safeguarding the mental health and well-being of workers. Not only fostering a positive workplace culture, also sustained productivity and success for both individuals and companies alike.

Helpful Resources:

HSE guidance on managing stress at work:

HSE Talking Toolkit – preventing work-related stress in construction: 

Building Mental Health Resources: 


Lighthouse – The Construction Industry Helpline: 

Mates in Mind: 


further reading

5 Ways to Reduce Stress on Construction Sites

Subscribe to our newsletter

Email address: