Construction Workers Dying at an Alarming Rate

Photo by Scott Blake on Unsplash

( – In 2022, an estimated 6,000 construction workers died by suicide, six times the 1,000 construction workers who died from a work-related injury over the same period.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the construction industry has the highest rate of suicide among any profession, with the rate of suicide among construction workers 75% higher than among American men in general.

Despite workers’ wages increasing and jobs in construction plentiful, the industry is concerned the deterioration of their workers’ mental health will only worsen.

The recent construction boom has stretched the industry’s limited workforce.

Workers now have to carry out a 10-hour workday in harsh weather to satisfy high-pressure deadlines. Their work requires them to spend months away from home, living in hotels, temporary housing, or their cars for long periods.

That pressure is only heightened because of the risk of workplace injury and the instability of hourly, often seasonal, work. Opioid misuse has also plagued the construction industry.

Now, Justin Azbill, a safety director who started as an ironworker, is traveling to construction sites across the country to share his harrowing struggle with suicide ideation as a way to encourage construction workers to seek help — just one effort in a multipronged strategy to address the suicide epidemic in the industry.

Azbill told workers at a multibillion-dollar semiconductor plant in Arizona that after months of pressure building at his job as safety director for a large Boston construction firm, he packed a lethal means to take his life in his lunch sack.

Struggling with sleep deprivation and generally feeling overwhelmed, Azbill prepared to leave for work that morning, but his daughter asked him to stay home. In a moment of clarity, Azbill reconsidered his plans and sought help from a friend and is now encouraging other construction workers to communicate when they’re struggling.

Azbill noted that “one of the reasons” he discusses his story “freely” is so that his colleagues in the industry know “it’s normal and it’s OK.”

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