It’s not just your employee’s physical health you are required to keep safe whilst they are at work, it’s their mental health too.
Yesterday was “R U Ok?” day, so I thought I would write this post about mental health in the workplace. “R U Ok?” day is a national charity which aims to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with the people around them and support anyone struggling with life.
As there will be many people talking about the cause at this time, it’s a great starting point to open a conversation with workers about mental health in the workplace.
Remember from the Work Health & Safety Act, an employer must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a safe and healthy work environment for their employees (including contractors). This includes all types of health.
As with the physical health of employees, mental health has its own risks and hazards. These include such actions as bullying, work related stress, violence and fatigue. A quick definition of each is below.
Workplace bullying is defined as repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.
Work related stress
Most people can cope with the daily stresses of work. Some people experience long lasting or excessive stress at work which can affect their mental well being. An example would be if someone has a lot of demands put on them at work and they feel they are unable to meet their deadlines etc. If they experience this on a regular basis they could feel work related stress.
Work related violence
Work related violence includes abuse, threats and assaults. Obviously all of these actions contravene the health & safety policies of any business.
Work related fatigue
Work related fatigue increases the chance of incidents occurring and injuries resulting from those incidents. At the very least productivity is adversely affected. Fatigue is more than feeling tired or drowsy. It is the ongoing state of tiredness that causes fatigue and stops people from functioning normally.
All of the above actions can directly affect an employee’s state of mental health.
As part of their Safety Management System, employers need to:-
- Identify hazards and risks in the workplace in relation to employees mental health;
- Make decisions about measures to be taken to prevent and manage work-related stress, bullying, violence and fatigue risks;
- Make decisions about information and training;
- Propose changes that may affect the health and safety of employees.
Along with the above, employers must also provide information, instruction, training and supervision to their employees to enable them to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.
Employers need to raise awareness of mental health within the workplace and include policies and practices into their workplace to promote in mental health wellbeing.
The flow on effect from having good mental health policies and procedures within your business is that it will bring with it increased employee morale and productivity.
There is a huge amount of information and strategies available for employers regarding workplace mental health online.
There is a great organisation called “Heads Up” (www.headsup.org.au) which has tips and resources for employers to use. Also take a look at the “Mental Health at Work” section of the Worksafe Queensland website (www.worksafe.qld.gov.au). These are two sites are a great starting point for you to find all the information you need.