Mental Health in the Workplace

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Work-related mental health conditions, also known as psychological injuries, have become a major concern in workplaces. Claims involving mental health conditions are usually associated with long periods away from work and higher than average claim costs. Safe Work Australia reports that each year 7200 workers are compensated for work-related mental health conditions and approximately $543 million is paid in workers compensation for psychological injuries.

Research indicates that job stress and other work-related psychological hazards are emerging as the leading contributors to the burden of occupational disease and injury.

So what is a work-related psychological injury?

A work-related psychological injury must have arisen out of, or in the course of employment. It excludes psychological disorders arising out of, or in the course of:

  • Reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way
  • A workers expectation or perception of reasonable management action being taken against the worker
  • Action by the Workers Compensation Regulator or an insurer in connection with a worker’s application for compensation.

Reasonable management action, taken in a reasonable way can include:-

  • An action taken to discipline, transfer or dismiss a worker;
  • A decision not to award a benefit in connection to a workers employment, including promotions, reclassification or transfer.

So who has obligations, and what are they in relation to psychological health and safety?

An employer has the primary duty to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, workers and other people are not exposed to psychological health and safety risks.

An officer has a duty to exercise due diligence to ensure the employer complies with their duties under the WHS laws. This includes taking steps to understand psychological hazards and risks associated with the workplace and ensuring appropriate resources and processes eliminate or minimise risks to psychological health. 

Workers have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and to not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons. Workers must comply with reasonable instructions, as far as they are reasonably able, and co-operate with reasonable health and safety policies and procedures.

How should risks to psychological health and safety be managed?

Managing work health and safety risks is an on-going process. Risk management is a proactive process that helps you respond to change and facilitate continuous improvement. The risk management process can be used and involves four steps:

  1. Identify psychosocial hazards
  2. Assess the risk
  3. Control risks
  4. Review risk controls. 

Effective management of psychological health and safety risks starts with a commitment from everyone that operates in a workplace. For more information on how you can ensure your work environment is not exposed to psychological health and safety risks, get in touch with an HR consultant at Preston HR.