For everyone Mental health is an OHS issue

Mental health is commonly recognised as an occupational health and safety issue these days. Unlike in the past, we now recognise that a worker’s mental health safety is just as important as their physical safety at work.

Mental health injuries make up approximately 16% of all WorkCover claims across Victoria. But the real number of injuries is likely higher, as many people don’t report their injuries or seek a WorkCover claim. Many simply resign, reduce their time fractions, retire early, or just bear the cost of their injury on their own. 

This has a big impact on our community. But how do we prevent mental injuries from happening? How does a workplace try to make itself more psychologically safe for its employees? 

There are recognised occupational hazards known to potentially lead to psychological injuries. Things such as exposure to trauma, occupational violence, work intensification, high job demands, and fatigue are all recognised as being potentially hazardous for mental health. Do these things sound familiar? Working in education, no matter what sector, could expose you to situations that might affect your mental health. 

Having an elected Health and Safety Rep in your school, TAFE, early childhood or disability workplace is the best way to start the conversation about preventing mental health injuries. HSRs understand the OHS Act and can set up structures in your workplace to develop preventative strategies. 

Like any other workplace hazard, psychological hazards need to be identified and controlled. A key part of identification is to report them. Without identification, an employer can’t start the process of prevention. Prevention really is the key. 

AEU HSRs develop their understanding of prevention strategies by linking in with the AEU HSR Network meeting and other PDs. Throughout 2023, HSRs in schools received presentations on reporting psychological hazards and injuries using eduSafe, and all our HSRs had the opportunity to attend a session on having mental health conversations in the workplace. 

Managing mental health at work is much more than resilience workshops, fruit bowls and the EAP. It is about identifying hazards and making genuine efforts to control them before they do harm. Having an elected HSR at your workplace is the best start to keeping your workplace mentally healthy. 

Need advice on electing an HSR? Need information on training if you’re already a HSR? Get in touch: [email protected].

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