Diagnoses of depression and anxiety due to an incident or incidents at work are becoming increasingly common, particularly in the context of performance management or administrative bullying, according to an OHS lawyer.
However, whether this is reflective of an increased awareness of mental health or is something more concerning, remains to be seen, said Michael Kay, a partner in the workplace relations, employment and safety practice at Wallmans Lawyers.
“Fortunately, I suspect it is the former, but there is still plenty of work to be done,” he said.
Companies are becoming increasingly adept at ensuring that their WHS policies, procedures and training genuinely “walk the talk” in terms of promoting a positive mental health culture, he added.
“Having said that, smaller businesses without the resources of larger employers, often cannot afford to obtain the appropriate advice, assistance or training to adequately address psychological risk,” said Kay.
“In my view, this is where the public regulators ought to (and do) play a critical role in educating and raising awareness of psychological safety considerations.”
Speaking ahead of the South Australian Safety Symposium which will be held from 16-17 May 2016 in Adelaide, Kay said there are a number of steps OHS professionals can take in terms of using their skills and communication to assist with managing and reducing the incidence of approach psychological injuries in the workplace.
“Appropriate procedures and training, tailored to your workplace, are absolutely critical,” he said.
“It is a reality that certain sectors will have a higher risk of psychological harm because of the difficult nature of the work they do.”
Police and emergency services are particularly salient examples, according to Kay, who said a critical and often overlooked consideration is that psychological injury is a factually complex, highly sensitive and nuanced concept.
“Unlike physical injuries, psychological injuries are far more difficult to objectively identify and assess,” he said.
“It requires comprehensive and careful training to enable OHS professionals to adequately identify, address and wherever reasonable reduce or eliminate psychological injuries in the workplace.”
Kay will be speaking at the inaugural South Australian Safety Symposium, which will be held from 16-17 May 2016 at the Stamford Plaza, Adelaide. For more information visit www.siasafetyconferences.com.au/safetySA.
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