EKFB supports physical and mental health
EKFB is a joint venture of four civil engineering and construction companies responsible for delivering 80km of Britain’s new high-speed railway, HS2. As well as reducing occupational health risks, it wanted to create a culture that supports the physical and mental health of the 4,500 people on site.
Alison Crawley, head of health for EKFB, explains, “Working in construction and engineering can be very rewarding but also very challenging. A lot of our people work in roles that could expose them to risks such as dust, noise and vibration if the proper precautions aren’t in place. They also do a lot of manual work, using specialist machinery in all weathers, and often live and work away from home, which can be emotionally challenging and limit their access to healthcare.”
She adds, “We wanted to supersede our legislative requirements to protect workers from occupational health risks by going beyond this to create a culture that supports the physical and mental health of everyone on-site. Not only would that help keep the project moving, but at a time when skills shortages abound, it would also make our people (including employees, subcontractors and labour-only workforce) feel cared for to increase their loyalty to the project and our industry.”
“We want to make our people feel cared for.”
EKFB appointed occupational health provider PAM OH Solutions to help proactively educate employees about steps they could take to not only protect but also improve their health. “We decided to appoint PAM OH because it had a proactive ‘whole person’ approach covering everything we needed when it came to reducing risk and boosting physical and mental health,” says Alison.
She explains, “To help us meet our legislative requirements, PAM OH provided us with an occupational health hygienist who could monitor employees at work and provide detailed advice, and reports, on how they could reduce health risks. Additional proactive PAM OH services include a dedicated on-site clinical team to drive wellbeing initiatives forward, a virtual GP service, physiotherapy and education on reducing the top five health risks in construction when working at an EKFB location. As well as dedicated wellbeing sessions for everyone on a variety of topics.”
Mental health services include face-to-face, telephone or video access to a dedicated counsellor and PAM Assist, an employee assistance programme (EAP), providing confidential support and education on issues ranging from managing stress and financial worries to relationship breakdown.
“The ‘choose to chat’ sessions have been incredibly well received. 83% of our people now feel better equipped to discuss mental health.”
Alison Crawley, Head of Health, EKFB
One of the first things the on-site clinical team did was to roll out a ‘one small change’ initiative. This encouraged employees to have a voluntary health check to find out their cholesterol and blood pressure and think of a small but significant change they could make to improve this. “Even though the health checks were voluntary, over 80% of employees took part, providing us with some valuable data insights to inform our wellbeing strategy,” says Alison.
“We quickly identified that, for some individuals, a barrier to healthy eating was the perception that this required cooking from scratch every evening,” explains Alison. “Once they were given tips on how to make healthy eating easier, they became motivated to make batch cooking and reheating healthy, tastier, food their one small change.”
Another wellbeing barrier identified was a lack of social opportunities, due to people living away from home and spending a lot of time alone in their digs. In response, wellbeing champions trained up by PAM OH are now developing ideas for community activities, such as cooking classes and know-your-neighbour events, to create communities. They are also rolling out monthly wellbeing campaigns, featuring access to informal coffee sessions, presentations, newsletters and bite-sized learning.
To support mental health further, EKFB also asked PAM OH to create a mental health induction programme. “The ‘choose to chat’ session is delivered to small groups of new starters and explains why mental health matters as much as physical health, the importance of supporting each other and where to go for support,” says Alison. “It’s been incredibly well-received. 100% of our people say they now know where to go for mental health support and 83% feel better equipped to discuss mental healh."
“The wide range of proactive wellbeing support on offer is supporting our workforce to be as healthy as they can be and making them feel valued.”
Alison Crawley, Head of Health, EKFB
“The wide range of proactive wellbeing support on offer is supporting our workforce to be as healthy as they can be and making them feel valued,” says Alison. “The on-site PAM OH clinical team understands our business and is driving behaviour change, such as getting people to see the physio before they get signed off work, while the on-site counsellor has helped us to create an open-door approach to mental health.”
One of the people to have benefited from the mental health support said, “The on-site PAM OH counsellor allowed me to see things more clearly and have open chats at work and at home. I’m very thankful for this service and have shared my positive experience with colleagues to help break the stigma that can surround mental health.”
Another said, “The wellbeing services are a game changer for people at EKFB who work away from home. Today I had access to a GP within 15 minutes and a prescription I could collect the same day. It means I can continue working without having to travel in pain to see my local doctor.”
Fiona King, head of occupational health and wellbeing for HS2, concludes, “It’s great to see the work EKFB and PAM OH are doing around meeting HS2 occupational health and wellbeing commitments, by proactively supporting workers to remain in work through positive occupational health interventions and wellbeing campaigns.”