Reports and Studies

Psychosocial risks in construction


Whether it is the homes in which we live or our workplaces and educational institutions in which we learn, and the hospitals, medical centres and government buildings, and the roads, rail, air, water and all underground services that we use, including all of the supplies upon which we rely, construction activity, past and present, affects every single aspect of our daily lives.

Indeed, this industry accounts for almost 30 % of industrial employment (14.5 million workers within approximately 3.1 million enterprises, 95 % of which have fewer than 20 workers and 93 % of which have fewer than 10 workers) 1, so we cannot underestimate its importance to those living in the EU 28, if not the rest of the world. Construction activity today offers a source of work for a wide variety of trades and professions and is a fundamental component and contributor to our combined well-being and our economic and social infrastructure. According to the EU-OSHA ESENER Survey, and quoting the UK’s Health and Safety Executive: “psychosocial risk factors are things that may affect workers’ psychological response to their work and workplace conditions (including working relationships with supervisors and colleagues). Examples are:
• high workloads,
• tight deadlines,
• lack of control of the work and working methods.” 2
All three of these examples may be found within a typical construction project and require positive stakeholder focus on worker well-being, if only because each example can lead to psychosocial risk, a hazard in its own right.

It is worth noting that although no two construction projects are ever alike, and even though they can be diverse, complex and demanding, we acknowledge that every construction activity has similar characteristics that require a consistent stakeholder approach towards worker well-being, including the reduction of psychosocial risks. The unintended consequence of a poorly planned and managed construction activity by any and all stakeholders could lead to problematic situations and psychosocial risks such as:
• workers having little control over their work or work methods (including shift patterns);
• workers being unable to fully utilise their skills;
• workers being excluded from making decisions that affect them;
• workers being expected to only perform repetitive and / or monotonous tasks;
• work being machine or system paced (and potentially being monitored inappropriately);
• demands that are perceived as excessive;
• creating work systems or working patterns that limit opportunities for social interaction;
• high levels of effort not being rewarded or appreciated (resources, remuneration, self-esteem, status).