Colorado Public Works Journal, Spring-Summer 2021

18 | Colorado Public Works Journal 30 MINUTES WITH CAL BEYER Cal Beyer is VP of Workforce Risk and Worker Wellbeing at CSDZ . You have been in the construction industry for 25 years, what was your role when you first started? Initially, I was a risk engineer, a health & safety consultant. I was assigned to work with construction companies to assess risk and develop risk reduction strategies. This grew into different roles with broader responsibilities serving the construction in- dustry. I previously consulted to healthcare organizations, and public entities, like cities and counties. When did you first realize that there was an issue with the lack of mental health awareness in this industry? The more I worked with construction companies, the more I learned about the challenges of the workforce. Early on I recognized many organizations did not address mental health in the workplace. I learned that most of the workforce did not grow up like I did in a family that talked about feelings, including mental health, addiction, and suicide. My earliest experiences working with contractors reminded me a lot of consulting to public safety agencies and first respon- ders before I moved to the construction industry. The bravado culture of not talking about feelings and “sucking it up” when times get tough were surprisingly similar. I knew I could help tackle stigma. How did you get involved in the wellbeing of the workforce? I worked in healthcare throughout high school and college. I initially considered a profession in the medical field but felt that I would become too involved. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to separate work from home life. I had some amazing experiences including working in the ER, ICU and even in an organ transplant unit. All these experiences shaped my life mission of “helping to save lives” that continues today. Working in the east coast before, during and after 9/11 gave me a new perspective. Seeing construction workers and first re- sponders dealing with such traumatic experiences working side by side left me thinking. The first responders seemed to have more support from chaplains, Employee Assistance Programs, and peer support than the construction employees did. Several years after 9/11 many contractors said workers were struggling. There were more divorces, increased alcohol and drug misuse, and even some suicides being reported. We can- not say it was necessarily all because of 9/11, but it made me get better at Critical Incident Response. That’s when you bring a behavioral health counselor to a jobsite or a company after a major or catastrophic workplace incident. The counselor helps employers develop a strategy to help workers build resilience and teach employees how to take care of themselves. How did you address mental health in construction to begin with? Post-9/11 we were not very well prepared and did not have the skills, but over time we got better. By the time Hurricane Katrina came along we were getting better. The resulting devastation, loss of lives, and displacement of families was a wide-scale dis- aster with a lot of trauma and life disruption. I delivered over 60 workshops across the country for the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) and other associations on emergency preparedness and disaster response. I always talked about looking out for the special needs of employees. This was not suicide prevention. It was basic, but it was formative in terms of teaching human capital risk management. How are you addressing it now? The past six or seven years we’ve been more formal and focused on how to build a caring culture. We better understand the risk factors. We can provide examples of best practices and share resources. Messaging has shifted to let workers know “It’s OK to not be OK” and how they can get help. As an industry, we are still at a very macro level and we need to I first learnt of Cal Beyer’s work from a client who had a very personal connection with his work. She later introduced us both and from our very first conversation, I was hooked and saw the immediate need to share his work with our industry. Please do take in the importance of this topic and don’t let the stigma continue.