Safeguarding your people from physical and mental injuriesSeptember 30, 2022
Did you know that mentally unhealthy workplaces cost Australia up to $39 billion each year in lost participation and productivity?
The way our almost 13 million-strong labour force undertakes daily work has changed drastically in recent times. The sudden shift to remote working models put a significant focus on mental health at work. And while our physical health and safety have always been under the spotlight, our psychological health is just as important.
Since 2009, the month of October has been National Safe Work Month which has created a platform to raise awareness of the importance of Work Health & Safety (WHS) and provide resources for Australian businesses to commit to building safer workplaces.
Understanding safety means working safely
Preventing psychological harm is an essential part of fostering a healthy and safe workplace. While you might not be able to physically see these types of injuries, they still have a significant impact on those affected, their families, and their employers. And with no clear or defined recovery process, these injuries can result in a lengthier absence from work and cost more than other injuries or illnesses.
What are your WHS duties?
WHS laws impose a duty of care on employers to ensure the health and safety of their employees while they’re at work. Businesses have a legal responsibility to reasonably prevent exposure to or the impacts of psychological hazards and risks. And while employers must safeguard the physical safety of their employees, it’s just as important to identify and implement measures to protect against mental harm.
Whether your workforce is entirely remote, location-based, or using a hybrid model, employers must continue to manage any potential psychological health risks. This can look like the following:
- Reviewing existing workplace policies and procedures to ensure they equip employees with vital information and tools to protect their mental health as reasonably possible.
- Re-evaluating workplace surveillance measures, including concerning the use of technology and other devices.
- Determining whether staff have been provided with clear, lawful, and reasonable directions about the performance of their duties from home including start and finish times, WHS policies and procedures training, taking beaks and attending virtual opportunities to socialise.
- Revisiting measures put in place to protect psychological safety in remote working environments and assess whether employees are aware of support programs available such as employee assistance and well-being services.
Is your WHS management system equipped to adequately manage psychological safety risks?
Regardless of industry or size, all businesses are subject to Australia’s stringent WHS laws, and given workplace safety is a criminal jurisdiction, there is no room for error when it comes to ensuring the health and well-being of employees. WHS law does not discriminate between physical and psychological safety in the workplace, so it is imperative that your WHS Management System doesn’t either.
With employees under significant mental demand now that they’re working remotely more regularly, employers need to ensure they have a robust WHS Management System in place that effectively works to identify, assess, control, and regularly review risks resulting from psychological hazards at work.
If this article has raised any questions for you about WHS obligations or compliance, please reach out to our workplace relations experts.