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September 5-9 is designated as Construction Suicide Prevention Week. The Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Surveillance (KOSHS) program is raising awareness about the unique challenges faced by construction workers and strategies employers can use to help safeguard their employees’ mental health. The construction industry has one of the highest rates of suicide among all occupations — four times higher than that of the general population, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that workplace suicides in the United States totaled 259 in 2020 — a decrease of 15.6% from the previous year (307), and the lowest count for occupational suicides since 2015. From 2012 to 2021, six Kentucky workers in the construction industry died by suicide while in the workplace, and 38 Kentucky workers in all industries died by suicide.

“With a suicide rate that is among the highest of any industry, it is important to bring attention to construction worker suicides during National Suicide Prevention Month,” said Rebecca Honaker, MPH, research director for KOSHS. “Employers can take actions to help prevent workplace suicides, such as learning to recognize the common warning signs.”

A previous KOSHS Hazard Alert highlights recommendations for employers:

  • Create a work environment that fosters communication and a sense of belonging and respect, to reduce the stigma of discussing mental illness and mental well-being.
  • Establish an employee assistance program that provides confidential counseling and/or referrals for employees who may be experiencing personal hardships.
  • Provide mental health awareness training to managers and supervisors, as they spend the most time with the employees and are often in the best position to observe behavioral changes and risk factors.
  • Identify employees who have experienced recent personal hardships and offer the company’s assistance, when feasible.

In addition to the recommendations above, the Hazard Alert features a list of dos and don’ts for establishing suicide awareness in the workplace.

The “Dos”, which are practices that may prove helpful, include:

  • Do emphasize help-seeking and provide information on finding help.
  • Do emphasize preventative actions one with suicidal thoughts can take.
  • Do list the warning signs, as well as risk and protective factors, of suicide.
  • Do highlight effective treatments for underlying mental health issues.

The “Don’ts”, which are practices that may prove problematic, include:

  • Don’t glorify or romanticize suicide, people who have died by suicide, or methods of suicide.
  • Don’t normalize suicide by presenting it as a common event.
  • Don’t present suicide as an inexplicable act or explain it as a result of stress only.
  • Don’t focus on personal details of people who have died by suicide.

To view the full Hazard Alert and past alerts, visit

KOSHS, an occupational injury surveillance program of the Kentucky Department for Public Health and the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRC), releases several Hazard Alerts each year. Terry Bunn, PhD, is the principal investigator of the KOSHS program.

KIPRC is a unique partnership between the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) and the University of Kentucky’s College of Public Health. KIPRC serves both as an academic injury prevention research center and as the DPH’s designee or “bona fide agent” for statewide injury prevention and control.