Industry Influencers: Q&A with Martin Coyd
Martin Coyd OBE, is an expert 'Health, Safety & Wellbeing Professional' who has had leadership H&S roles at Mace Construction, Lendlease and Skanska. As well as playing a key role in the Building Mental Health Framework he is also part of the Thriving at Work Leadership Council - we caught up with him to find out out more about the mental health crisis facing the construction sector.
Q: Can you explain what crisis is facing the construction sector
Our understanding of the extraordinary challenges our industry faces with mental health and mental illness has been evolving over the past few years. From a place of zero conversations, no data and precious little understanding of our circumstances, the picture has become a little clearer.
What is stunning, is the shocking statistics around suicide. From not knowing anything, we estimated 180 per year in the UK, then in 2017 we got the first Office of National Statistics (ONS) data which indicated 400+. The latest ONS data shows an eight-year average of 662 construction worker suicides.
We now know that our sector is the highest risk for suicide across the UK, with semi and un-skilled trades 3.7 times higher than the national average. WE also know that our risk factors include job uncertainty, working away, long hours, tight deadlines.
There is no doubt that the global Covid 19 crisis will exacerbate this and our risk will increase and more people than ever will face more stress and anxiety. For every death by suicide, it is estimated that there are between 10 and 25 times more attempts. That projection is very scary and we must raise our game and support all of our workers and their families
Q: What projects/initiatives are you working on at the moment?
I have the privilege to be a Volunteer with Building Mental Health (BMH) and an Ambassador for the Lighthouse Club
BMH is an industry wide Framework and Charter where organisations can work together, with the flexibility to do what is right for the people involved and be part of a national movement to raise awareness, provide education, signpost people to professional help and create a network of support for everybody.
We were awarded a grant of £ 1 million by The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) to train 288 Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Instructors, enabling out industry to become self-supporting in awareness, education and support.
The Lighthouse Club was formed in 1956 gives financial help to thousands of families, plunged into financial crisis when they lose their breadwinner’s income through illness, injury or death.
Lighthouse also provide two fantastic support services, Construction Industry Helpline, which is available to the industry’s workforce and their families in the UK and Ireland. This is supported by the Considerate Constructors Scheme.
The second is the Construction Industry Helpline App which is supported by Coins. This construction app is a free tool, accessible to all which provides advice and support in the areas of Mental Health and wellbeing and three new areas; Physical, Financial and Site Wellbeing.
Q: What steps can construction companies make?
Every construction company can sign the BMH Charter and use the Framework to create a strategy and process which is suitable for what they need. There are no fees, in fact CITB Grant can be claimed for the ½ day and two day MHFA courses.
We need to reach over 2 million people, and their families. It is also important to recognise that the nature of the industry means that we all share the same workforce and people move around. Perhaps the most crucial part of the BMH Charter is that each organize agrees to recognise the training being delivered by everybody else and that all interventions are positive.
Q: What are the main challenges for the construction industry in the future?
94% of our industry work for organisations employing less that 10 people and half of those are self-employed. This means that it can be really hard to reach people, especially those whose work may be fast moving and itinerant.
We must take a collective responsibility for one another and make it our business to build good mental health and wellbeing practices into everything we do.
This is not about medicalising our industry or making things complicated. It is just about being respectful, caring and kind. Now, and more than ever before
Q: What do you see as the next trend/technology that will have an impact on the construction sector?
Wearables will receive a boost in take up due to the need to manage risk to people in the post Covid 19 world. I anticipate that this period has given the who sector time to reflect on practices, whether we need hoards people working on top of each other and the need to get smarter with planning and programming work activity. The use of proximity devices is likely to help with monitoring work practices in our ‘new normal’ way. I much prefer the phrase ‘physical distancing’ and not ‘social distancing’. We should try to avoid social distancing
Q: What was the most recent app you’ve downloaded?
Two. The updated Construction Industry Helpline App. It was brilliant in it’s first version and is now even better, covering more of the things that people in our sector will worry about. Now they can get help at the end of their arm. Free !
The second is the Ordnance Survey (OS) App. I enjoy long distance walking, carrying my home, clothes and food on my back. This is invaluable and helps keep a record of where I’ve been and where I got lost. I am due to do Hadrians Wall and The Cumbrian Coast at the end of May but do not expect to be able to do so, later in the year, perhaps.
Martin Coyd OBE began his working life as a chain-boy at Fairclough Tunnelling, before joining the Royal Engineers, spending 18 years in The Corps. He is team manager of the England Wheelchair Rugby League Team and still plays Rugby League, the running game, at the age of 55. Martin is a Stonewall Champion and was named in the Financial Times OUTstanding Global Top 30 LGBT Executive Allies list in 2015. Martin was named in the SHP list of the 10 Most Influential in Health and Safety, in 2017, 2018 & 2019 Martin was awarded an OBE in 2014