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HSE must investigate all work-related suicides, demands Unite

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

Unite, the UK’s leading union, is calling for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to be given the power to investigate all suicides where work is a factor in someone taking their own life.

Unite believes extending the powers of the HSE to be able to investigate all work-related suicides is particularly important in tackling the excessive deaths occurring in industries such as construction. The latest figures reveal that suicide rates in construction are increasing and now stand at 33.82 per 100,000, the highest death rate of any sector. The latest figures, reveal that 507 construction workers committed suicide in 2001.

Unite believes that the excessive number of construction worker suicides is often directly related to working conditions, including precarious employment, short term assignments, a long hours culture and high numbers working away from home.

The coping mechanisms the overwhelmingly male workforce tend to employ to deal with the pressures of work include drinking, gambling and substance misuse, all of which can exacerbate mental health problems.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The failure to fully investigate the reasons why workers in all sectors are taking their own lives is a scandal. Until all aspects of why workers commit suicide are investigated, the necessary reforms needed to save lives cannot be implemented.”

Unite national officer for construction Jason Poulter said: “Construction suicide rates are increasing dramatically and the critical issues that are causing workers to commit suicide are not being addressed.

“The vast majority of construction employers do not take the mental wellbeing of their workforce seriously and until the HSE is given the powers and the resources to investigate these tragedies properly that will continue to be the case.”

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