By Michael Selinger
Support for businesses and workers to develop strategies to manage their mental health and assistance for others in the workplace has been further boosted by an initiative from the NSW Government that recently announced a partnership with the Black Dog Institute to roll out training for small to medium-sized regionally based businesses.
The training will initially be offered to about 5000 workers and will be by way of face-to-face training and e-modules.
The training itself is designed to raise awareness of mental health issues and how they manifest themselves in the workplace.
As the NSW Minister for Better Regulation, Matt Kean, stated in a media release: “It forms part of the NSW Mentally Healthy Workplaces Strategy which has a target of more than 90,000 NSW businesses taking effective action to create mentally healthy workplaces by 2022”.
The issue of mental health and injury has been on the agenda for all governments for a number of years.
In the most recent review of the WHS laws in Australia, the review found that:
- Many employers found managing the risks to psychological health difficult.
- Most employers feel that they lack the requisite expertise and are wary of intervening in case they do further harm.
- There were differing views about the extent to which psychosocial risks could be ‘designed out’ of the workplace. The National Road Transport Association suggested greater attention be given to controlling psychosocial hazards when considering work design. Some felt the existing hierarchy of control does not work in the psychological health context, given the difficulty of designing out psychological harm.
- Ideas for strengthening the focus on workers’ psychological health included calls for the model WHS Act to highlight psychosocial risks in a similar way to physical risks, for the legislation to reference risks associated with the ‘psychological working environment’ or workplace culture and hazardous workplace behaviours (similar to hazardous plant and substances), and for proactive supportive mechanisms for improving psychological health to be incorporated into the WHS laws
The review then recommended that the WHS Regulations be amended to deal with how to identify psychosocial risks associated with psychological injury and the appropriate control measures to manage the risks.
In the meantime, employers need to ensure that they and their staff are aware of how mental health issues manifest themselves in the workplace.
To assist, employers should utilise the resources that are available, including a publication on the Safe Work Australia website (safeworkaustralia.gov.au): Work-related psychological health and safety: A systematic approach to meeting your duties.