Stress “demolishing mental health” in Australian construction: study

A study by Queensland’s Bond University involving 500 participants has found that stress is "demolishing the mental health of the people building Australia".

It found that work stress hampers the ability of construction project managers (CPMs) to do their jobs more than it does people in other sectors.

The author of the report, Professor Alan Patching, who was project director for construction of the Sydney Olympic Stadium, is calling for systemic change in the Australian construction industry to protect workers’ mental health. The consequences of failing to act included suicide, he said.

Patching said a cut-throat approach to tendering and wafer-thin profit margins were driving the stress epidemic.

"It would be far better to avoid a lot of stress by ensuring that workloads are appropriate and prices and schedule times for projects are reasonable," he said.

In the research, seen by GCR, 73% of CPMs experienced work related stress at a perceived level of 50% or more, and 48% experienced it at a level of 70% or more.

Employers are in reactive mode, the study found, offering assistance only after employees suffered from stress instead of taking steps to stop it happening.

Most CPMs – 68% – believed the issue of stress should not just be left for individuals to handle, and that employers should take some responsibility.

Commenting on the findings, Patching said: "The current most commonly used contracting system effectively often requires tenderers to bid with low or no margin prices and/or to offer reduced construction time in order to win work.

"That, in turn, requires appointing more experienced and usually already over-committed construction project managers to manage the project in a way that drives some level of profit from it.  

"Many of the participants in my research told stories of the impacts of this on their health and on their family life that were disturbing, to say the least, with some reporting having experienced suicide ideation."

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