Zurich North America: Workers’ Mental Health Is Critical to On-the-job Safety

As one of the largest construction insurance providers in the U.S., Zurich North America is sponsoring 2021 Construction Safety Week from May 3-7, emphasizing that attention to workers’ mental health and guidance on COVID-19 are critical aspects of on-the-job safety.

“Construction crews need ongoing training and communication in the best of times, but the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 heighten this need,” says Jon Tate, head of Construction Risk Engineering at Zurich North America. “For instance, information on modified work plans and daily health checks may be especially crucial for workers, which are two areas we will once again focus on this year.”

Mental health and employees’ overall wellbeing is another key topic. Construction has the highest suicide rate across all industries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Misuse of opioids is also higher in construction than in many other occupations. Social isolation and stressors because of the pandemic intensify the need for site supervisors and co-workers to be attentive and informed about how to reach out to workers who may be struggling mentally and emotionally.

“A lot goes into making construction jobs a success,” says Rick Zellen, a principal risk engineer for Zurich North America and Zurich’s Safety Week coordinator. “Awareness is key to protection and prevention.”

Zurich has been a proud sponsor of Safety Week since its inception in 2014. It was started by 40 firms in the Construction Industry Safety Initiative and the Incident and Injury Free CEO Forum. It has grown to include hundreds of companies and thousands of workers nationally.

For the 2020 event, which was delayed to September because of the pandemic, Zurich engaged with over 3,000 insured workers through onsite and virtual events involving more than 20 customers in 14 states. Activities included onsite safety assessments and participation in safety committee meetings, Safety Week luncheons, training webinars, risk assessment updates and fall protection training, all with adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols. Similar activities are planned for this week. For more information, please visit Zurich’s Safety Week hub.

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