Northern Ireland’s construction and infrastructure industry must promote mental and occupational health in order to remain competitive. That was the take-home message at today’s Building a Healthier Workforce, a conference organised by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and sponsored by building and civil engineering contractor Farrans.

Each year, ill health costs UK workplaces an estimated £8-9 billion. Though many health and safety protocols exist already to protect construction workers and engineers from physical harm, the industry is also now focusing on mental and occupational health as part of workers’ overall wellbeing.

ICE Regional Director Richard Kirk said: “Until recently, the mind-set was that employers were only responsible for preventing injuries and fatalities. However, workplace anxiety, stress, bullying and hostile work environments also have serious effects on people’s health and on company productivity.

“We have seen some positive steps around mental and occupational in Northern Ireland, with more and more companies adopting policies and resources to better employees’ wellbeing. We want to ensure that health remains a high priority in our industry.

“Civil engineers and construction workers build the infrastructure which sustains our quality of life. It’s our responsibility to make sure that their quality of life is looked after, too.”