How Fulton Hogan is offering better mental health services for the construction industry

March 18, 2024
Mental health in construction

Next time you are out and about, consider this; for every six people you see, one, on average, has experienced some kind of suicidal thoughts or behaviors. You may indeed be one of those numbers. In Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death for those between 15 and 44 years of age. 

This is no small issue.

As such, it isn’t hard to see the value in workplace training and awareness programs, across all industries; the numbers and the personal stories that many of us have heard or have experienced ourselves make that a compelling aim for company managers and employers to commit to addressing the need for action. 

In the construction sector, the numbers are even more concerning. 

Figures from a large study conducted on suicide rates in the construction industry found that the rate of suicide for male construction workers is almost twice that of other working males in Australia. A similar trend was found for women in construction as well, although not as significant as it was in males. 

Fulton Hogan as one of the leaders in the sector in Australia, was understandably concerned about these statistics. They recognized the pressing need for action in this crucial space.

Here’s how it looks.

Focus on mental health

Fulton Hogan employs over 10,000 people in the Tasman and Australasia regions and is one of Australia’s most successful companies in the construction, infrastructure services, and utilities sectors.

In 2020, the company established its National Mental Health Steering Committee and, from there, it committed to a five-year plan to build a better Mental Health program, not only within its own operations but also across the construction sector. 

To get things started, the company’s Australian Executive Leadership Team issued a statement which outlined their aims to improve training and awareness at all levels within the company, and within the sector more broadly.   

“We will make mental health an objective of our business,” says the signed statement.

Partnering with experts 

A component of this strategy is a partnership with not-for-profit medical research institute, Black Dog Institute. 

This has developed initial awareness and openness programs to encourage more discussions on mental health issues. Dialogue is encouraged at both the informal, “let’s chat about it” level, as well as via more formal workplace and management channels. 

The company’s “20 Reasons to Speak up” program, as just one facet of this drive, has been a hugely successful means of opening up conversations about mental health. 

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Speaking out is a particularly poignant aspect of Fulton Hogan’s approach, as the sector has developed a culture of suppressing or even disregarding the fears, anxieties, or stresses many feel on a regular basis, in workplaces as elsewhere. 

Unpacking these issues in workplace settings and discussing how they affect different employees is seen by the company as a focal point from which to develop improvements into the future in a sustainable way. 

Fulton Hogan is aware that open communication is vital to ensure, for instance, that the warning signs of mental health struggles can be identified and a conversation around them can be started. 

From here, the company says, connecting to support and developing tools to move forward can be initiated.

fulton hogan team

Mental health training

The insidious nature of mental health illnesses means that problems can not only emerge but can grow almost without being noticed by either the individual themselves or by their friends and relatives. Ensuring work colleagues have an understanding of the meaning of well-being can help them spot the signs in themselves and in those they are working with. 

Fulton Hogan has set a target to graduate 80% of staff through its mental health awareness program within the five-year plan. It has already started moving towards that outcome with some 570+ employees, from executive positions to junior employees, having completed the Mental Health First Aid course, meaning most employees now have access to a fellow workplace colleague who is trained to identify mental health red flags and to help them find support. 

To date, over 80% of Fulton Hogan’s leadership team, including CEO’s and General Managers are also qualified Mental Health First Aiders.

Well-being is also about maintaining a workplace culture which pays attention to workplace stresses and pressures that can lead to mental health problems. An unsustainable work-life balance is a common trigger for mental health breakdowns and so Fulton Hogan has established a range of parental leave entitlements for both primary and secondary carers and other flexible working policies to help staff find an equilibrium between work, family, and personal life. 

To underpin this, the company is devoted to workplace inclusion and diversity to allow space for each individual to feel comfortable and to feel secure at work no matter what their background or situation. Allowing time for cultural events, family celebrations, or lifestyle choices is part of this commitment to workplace flexibility, as is ensuring there is room to share such occasions with other employees.

Award winning approach

Fulton Hogan’s investment in improving mental health at work in the construction sector has seen them acknowledged as a Skilled Workplace by Mental Health First Aid Australia.

The company is rightly proud of a high level of engagement among staff on mental health awareness, which is significantly higher than the industry average. 

As a testimony to the strides they have made since making mental health a priority, Fulton Hogan was also recognized for its hard work in reducing suicide in the community last year when it was awarded the Victorian Workplace LIFE Award from Suicide Prevention Australia.

Fulton Hogan’s commitment to workplace wellness and to suicide prevention in an industry that has struggled to come to terms with its culture is encouraging and inspiring. 

It’s clear that Fulton Hogan recognizes that mental health is not just an excuse for a slogan or a policy statement; it has a face, a name, and its employees are already seeing the value of this approach.  

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About the Author

Jacynta Clayton’s career started in recruitment advertising and employer branding, working with global clients to create and deploy strategic and creative content. Now she combines her industry experience with the knowledge from her psychology and professional writing degrees to write unique and resounding stories. As a WORK180 storyteller she relishes the opportunity to elevate the voices and experiences of so many amazing people, while also empowering and educating audiences on how to choose a workplace where they can thrive.

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