Ryman Healthcare’s Lincoln Road site has become the company’s second construction site to be awarded Mates in Construction accreditation.
The Miriam Corban team have now joined the Murray Halberg construction team in being recognised for placing good mental health and wellbeing amongst its workers as a top priority.
Awarding the team their plaque, Mates’ Field Officer James Sendall said it was a testament to the hard work everyone had done on site to reach that point.
“There’s a great bunch of amazing people, with cohesiveness, and a culture of making values, strength and support part of the site.
“I walk away today feeling comfortable that if anything should occur it’s in great hands.”
Field Officer James Sendall congratulates the Miriam Corban team before presenting the plaque to Health and Safety Coordinator Justin De Vrije.
Mates in Construction is a preventative programme which originated in Australia in 2008 which is aimed at reducing the high numbers of suicides in the construction industry.
With the NZ construction sector losing roughly one person a week to suicide, the programme resonated strongly with the industry here after launching in 2019.
As one of New Zealand’s largest construction companies, Ryman Healthcare partnered with the not-for-profit organisation the following year in a bid to raise awareness around suicide prevention and to encourage people to check in on their fellow workers.
The pandemic had compounded the various stressors that affected the male-dominated construction industry, with supply and labour shortages adding to the pressures.
Young men aged 20-24 were typically the most at risk, James said.
“It’s a time when they might be leaving home for the first time and going flatting, they’re organising their own finances, there could be a relationship breakdown or maybe they’re getting bullied.
“That’s actually the number one in terms of pressures, especially when you’re young and then you get shouted at when at work with that old school attitude where it’s just ‘get the job done’,” said James.
Stresses also built up around the summer/Christmas period with extra financial pressure mounting and heightened emotions that could come with family reunions.
The Miriam Corban team, which is boosted by a number of regular contractors, was also hit recently by the death of a Marin Construction contractor who fell from scaffolding on another building site.
Three of the Miriam Corban connectors - Matakeu Timms, Andrew Anderson and Justin De Vrije.
Many of the team knew him as he had worked on a couple of Ryman sites as well and had felt his death keenly, said Miriam Corban Health and Safety Coordinator Justin De Vrije.
“We offered them a lot of support, just talking to the guys and helping them through their situation,” he said.
“The training really helps because it removes the stigma of not being able to talk about things.”
The Mates training aims at placing one connector per 20 workers on site to be available to help connect the person in need of support with appropriate help.
Justin, a Mates connector himself, said breaking down the image of being the ‘tough-faced big burly guy in boots’ was key.
The training gave insight into spotting the ‘invitations’ that those struggling may give off, such as changes in body language, demeanour or behaviour.
“It helps you understand the stuff you look at that you would normally miss,” Justin said.
“For instance, the mannerisms of the guys when they’re coming to work. You can tell how their evening has been by how they greet you in the morning which, without the training, you might overlook.
“I feel like it makes you treat them with a bit more empathy and an open heart instead of maybe cracking a joke. Rather, you might ask the hard question, how are you doing?
“That’s what this training did, is make us feel comfortable talking about these situations. Everyone has some issues that they’re dealing with and as soon as they talk about them it helps you to resonate with that person so much.”
Justin said the training would be invaluable in the home setting too.
“It’s almost more valuable I think. We put on a face when we come to work and we can only wear that face so long and at home that’s when it starts picking up, and you feel the pressures and the financial strain.”
Mates Field Officer James Sendall said he was looking forward to Ryman’s Hobsonville site being the next site to achieve accreditation.
Project Manager Joe Wan holds the Mates plaque while Foreman Ajay Lee looks on.
Project Manager Joe Won was proud of the team's achievement: "Receiving this plaque is testament to how committed the team is to step up and go the extra mile for their teammates and find ways to help them.”