Safe Work Australia Publishes Guidance on Work-related Mental Health

The guide is built around three main sections: Preventing Harm, Intervening Early, and Supporting Recovery. It outlines a systematic approach to ensuring workers' psychological health and safety that revolves around the elements discussed in the three sections.

Safe Work Australia has published national guidance on psychological health and safety as it relates to work. The guide, Work-related Psychological Health and Safety: A systematic approach to meeting your duties, describes how to build a workplace that is psychologically safe and healthy for employees by identifying, assessing, and controlling risks to employees’ mental health.

The guide is built around three main sections: Preventing Harm, Intervening Early, and Supporting Recovery. It outlines a systematic approach to ensuring workers' psychological health and safety that revolves around the elements discussed in the three sections.

Special Adviser for Safe Work Australia Dr. Peta Miller said that work-related psychological injury is expensive, but we are aware of what causes harm and know that taking measures to prevent psychological harm works.

"Poor psychological safety costs Australian organizations $6 billion per annum in lost productivity," Miller said. "This is primarily because psychological injuries typically require three times more time off work than other injuries."

According to SWA's guide, the approach outlined can help decrease business costs from work-related psychological injury and improve employee motivation, which increases productivity and has other benefits.

The guidance outlines many factors that could result in psychological injury, such as high or low job demands, poor support or workplace relationships, isolated work, or violent or traumatic events. It also notes that the same hazards may affect individual workers differently, and it is important to communicate with employees to see how they are doing and whether additional support is needed.

"You can prevent your workers becoming ill or sustaining a psychological injury by responding to early warning signs and incidents – an increase in unplanned absence, uncharacteristic behavior and workplace conflict are all clues that things aren't quite right," Miller said.

The Supporting Recovery section of the guide discusses workers' compensation for psychological injury and gives general guidelines of the obligations for both workers and employers. An appendix of helpful resources is also included.

"Most importantly, workers will offer the most valuable insights – they know what causes them harm, and will have ideas about how to most effectively address the dangers to their mental health," Miller said. "My advice is to listen to the people doing the work."

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