For everyone OHS includes mental health

Education workers performed extraordinary feats during the years of lockdowns and the impact is definitely showing. There has been an increase in mental health claims across the entire public sector, leading many employers to focus on mental health and safety as a key priority moving forward.

One element of this is the introduction of Psychological Health Regulations, which will apply across the state in all workplaces and will focus on identification and prevention. Once these regulations are released, AEU Health and Safety Reps will workshop the best ways to use them to get good workplace safety outcomes.

While this is welcome, our HSRs don’t need to rely on regulations to start addressing hazards at work. HSRs have been using the basics of the OH&S Act for years to tackle psychological safety, identifying hazards, consulting on controls, and reviewing the outcomes.

HSRs often tell me that the best way to start addressing psychological safety is to ensure that all staff members in any workplace understand what psychological hazards and incidents are, and to consistently report them. This awareness leads to a positive culture where staff feel confident reporting incidents and discussing hazards.

Treating psychological health and safety in the same way that physical health and safety is treated enables workplaces to normalise psychological health and minimise stigma that might lead to low levels of reporting. Reporting ensures that the employer has a clear picture of how the health of their staff is tracking and gives them an opportunity to do something to address any issues. Reporting is vital – employers can’t fix what they don’t see.

Sexual harassment is a safety issue

According to the Human Rights Commission, one in three people have been sexually harassed at work in the past five years. The Minister for Workplace Safety Ingrid Stitt recently released the recommendations from the Ministerial Taskforce on Workplace Sexual Harassment, along with the Victorian government’s response.

The government has accepted the recommendation to treat sexual harassment as a workplace safety issue. It will increase funding to WorkSafe to expand its WorkWell program and increase resources to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. This ensures that our Health and Safety Reps in education workplaces have opportunities to provide support for those experiencing sexual harassment and work with the employer to create safe work environments.

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