Canadian Occupational Safety

May/June 2020

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 28 of 35 29 "We talk about what it looks like when one of our mates in struggling." Gullestrup explains that this is why they introduced the concept of a "connector" — someone who will look out for a worker in need. He says the program gets between 20 and 30 per cent volunteering. MATES trains key workers and encourages those involved to form connector committees to understand current issues. He says MATES wants to start a conversation around how to motivate somebody to accept help. Over time, MATES has generated a network of about 15,000 volunteers across the industry as well as 2,000 to 3,000 interveners. These volunteers have become the core ambassadors of the program. Gullestrup says the program is based on a Canadian module, LivingWorks. Based in Calgary and started in 1983, the organization offers two suicide prevention programs: LivingWorks ASIST and safeTALK, which uses a "train the trainer" model for dissemination. MATES aims to raise awareness around the topic, create stronger networks and provide case managers. MATES also partners with researchers to see what progress could look like. Gullestrup says that, in the last 10 years, there's been a market shift and that MATES is part of it. Now, he says, a number of large companies want their sites to be MATES-accredited. This is essential as Gullestrup says that "the smaller companies depend on the larger companies, so when we get the larger companies on board the smaller companies have no other choice but to comply." What about women? Although they make up a smaller part of the workforce, suicide in the industry also affects female construction workers. "We are talking a lot about men's mental health, we need to be, but there's an aspect of being a woman in a male-dominated industry," says Grant. "I've had women tell me they're already seen as a liability on the job just because they're a woman, so they're even more reluctant to reveal they may be suffering. That's something we also need to talk about. If you're a woman working on a construction site, you're a rare breed; they're about five per cent [of the workforce]." Gullestrup concurs. "It's an issue we're becoming more and more aware of… We've looked at suicide rates and the numbers are very small, but what we've actually found is that suicide rates among men in the construction industry have [been] reduced and those among women have increased, which tells us we're not doing the job as well as we can." However, Gullestrup says, women are more likely to call MATES' helpline and become volunteers and connect with the workers. "There's something in the program they tend to identify with." The industry certainly has a lot on its plate. "I think change has started, which is fantastic, but we can't take our foot off the gas and we've got to continue talking about it," says Grant. OVER 30 CRATE SIZES IN STOCK – READY TO SHIP π SHIPPING SUPPLY SPECIALISTS COMPLETE CATALOG 1-800-295-5510 ORDER BY 6 PM FOR SAME DAY SHIPPING "I think change has started, which is fantastic, but we can't take our foot off the gas and we've got to continue talking about it." Donna Grant, marketing and proposal manager with Scott Construction Group

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