Managing workplace mental health

Health and Safety / 21 January 2021
Managing workplace mental health

Most organisations have health and safety plans in place that identify physical hazards and their associated risks, but few adequately address workplace mental health risks.

Obligations under Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA)

The HSWA requires all organisations to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety, including mental health so far as reasonably practicable.  Organisations are required to identify and assess all risks that could impact on a worker’s mental health and have a management system that sets out controls for these.

Most causes of mental harm in the workplace result from psychosocial hazards. These stem from the design, management or workplace culture and can include factors such as job content, workload, demand and pace, environment and equipment, interpersonal relationships, control, and career development. If not managed properly, these elements of work have the potential to cause mental or physical harm.

One of the difficulties with managing psychological hazards is that individual characteristics impact on whether a person experiences mental harm as a result of a particular hazard or not.  Regardless, steps to eliminate and/or minimise these risks for workers are still necessary.

Common psychological hazards

Common psychological hazards can include:

  • Fatigue;
  • work-related stress and/or burnout;
  • Bullying and harassment;
  • Discrimination;
  • Alcohol;
  • Working alone; and
  • Violence and threats

To manage these hazards, organisations need to determine what workplace factors, systems and processes contribute to them and implement strategies to eliminate, or where that is not reasonably practicable, minimise their impact.  For example, such hazards can be minimised by:

  • Ensuring adequate resourcing for work;
  • Encouraging workers to take regular breaks and to use annual holidays;
  • Considering flexible work practices;
  • Training managers on mental health issues; and
  • Implementing clear policies on discrimination, bullying and harassment and health and safety.

Message for Employers

In order to manage these hazards, employers need to identify what psychosocial hazards are present and implement strategies to eliminate, or where that is not reasonably practicable, minimise their impact.

Please contact us if you require assistance on managing mental health in the workplace.

Disclaimer: We remind you that while this article provides commentary on employment law, health and safety and immigration topics, it should not be used as a substitute for legal or professional advice for specific situations. Please seek legal advice from your lawyer for any questions specific to your workplace.


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