Bullying On Hinkley Point Construction Site Causing Male Mental Health Crisis

By Meka Beresford, Freelance News Editor 14 Aug 2019

Loneliness, isolation, bullying and financial pressures are causing a mass mental health crisis on the Hinkley Point C construction site, where at least 10 people attempted suicide in the first four months of 2019, according to The Guardian. 

Union’s have recorded a rise in worker’s taking time off due to depression, anxiety, and stress and say that two people have taken their lives since the work began in 2016.

Workers are also struggling with alcohol and substance abuse, as well as gambling addiction with some local betting shops in Bridgwater, the local town where many workers are housed, noting that some workers’ were spending up to £3000 a week.

Male Mental Health

Construction worker

Image Credit: Pixabay

In the UK, men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women. Within the construction industry, suicide rates are three times that of the national average.

Unite union convenor for Hinkley Point C, Malcolm Davies, said the stats at the site were shocking.

Construction is a very macho industry. We have the highest amount of mental health issues of any sector. People can be very upset over something but they won’t tell you.

Malcolm Davies, Unie Union Convenor

“We were in utter shock when they told us the statistics around suicides and mental health. The scale of the mental health issues at Hinkley is something I have never seen before.

Hinkley Point C And Workers’ Rights

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Hinkley Point C, a nuclear power plant development based in Somerset, is the largest construction site in the UK since the Second World War and has over 4000 workers. Those workers work in shift patterns of up to 11 days in a row, with three days off for a chance to travel home.

Under workers’ rights law, employees should only work a maximum of 48 hours in a seven day period, and have at least 11 hours of rest between shifts in a 24 hour period. However, many workers are given the option to sign this right away using an “opt-out” form – which can be a desirable option for those in dire straits.

According to research carried out by Queen Mary University of London alongside other universities and institutions, working eleven hours a day can cause severe depression.

Workers on site told The Guardian that it can be difficult to deal with the stress of the job while on-site because they fear they will be ridiculed for sharing their emotions. Further stress comes from the unpredictable work of contracting, as well as the distance workers’ may have from their families and friends.

Men are doing very physical work, with manual handling of heavy objects every day and if you’re the big bloke and you say you can’t cope or you are seen crying you get ridiculed.

Malcolm Davies, Unie Union Convenor

“Men are doing very physical work, with manual handling of heavy objects every day and if you’re the big bloke and you say you can’t cope or you are seen crying you get ridiculed,” Davies said.

This means many workers’ are experiencing added stress during their visits home as they are struggling to find a place to offload.

The Unite Union are working with EDF management, who run the site, to help combat the mental health crisis with a plan that will see 200 builders (or “buddies”) trained in mental health to support colleagues, time out rooms, and a GP available on site.

Électricité de France (EDF), the managers of the site, have only officially recorded two suicides.

Featured Image Credit: StockSnap/Pixabay