It is likely that your workplace does not place a high priority on the health and wellbeing of workers, and that there are no formal ways to report issues that contribute to work related stress, including incidences of bullying and harassment.
Your responses indicate that you need to take immediate action to ensure psychological hazards and risks are identified and addressed, as you would physical hazards and risks at work. In particular, it is important to ensure processes are in place whereby workers can report incidences of bullying and harassment, and workers are educated about how to do this.
In addition, there are many business benefits (such as improved workplace culture and morale) for workplaces to place more importance on promoting a healthy workplace, including introducing health promotion activities and initiatives on topics such as mental health, healthy eating, physical activity, quit smoking etc.
What you can do to improve:
Reassess the importance the business places on the health and wellbeing of workers, and consider how it can be viewed as a priority for the business
There is increased awareness of the importance of health and wellbeing in workplaces, however, sometimes workplaces are unclear on how it can be addressed in a planned and proactive manner. This can be achieved by developing a formal health and wellbeing strategy/action plan. Important steps include getting management commitment to health and wellbeing, reviewing what you have and don’t have in place, asking staff what they think is important to their health and wellbeing and then developing a plan/program of health and wellbeing activities based on this information. It is important to communicate this strategy/plan to workers so they know what activities they can be involved in. In this way, health promotion activities such as mental health, healthy eating, physical activity, drug and alcohol, etc. are regular events during the year, and address the needs of the workforce.
If you are looking for further tools and resources in this area, go to the Heads Up Website and SA Health “How to create a healthy workplace “resources and toolkit.
Review your health and safety system and make sure it includes the management of psychological hazards and risks – those workplace issues that could contribute to work-related stress
The employer has an obligation to eliminate or minimise risks to the health and safety of workers (as is reasonably practicable). Under the WHS laws, the definition of “health” includes both physical and psychological health. Therefore, it is important that workers are encouraged to report hazards that can contribute to work-related stress, such as high workloads, exposure to traumatic events, work-related violence, fatigue, poor workplace relationships etc. This should be integrated into standard incident reporting procedures so workers know how to report these types of issues, the incidents can be appropriately investigated and suitable control measures can be put in place.
One psychological hazard which needs to be addressed is the prevention bullying and harassment. Education is a significant factor in preventing and managing workplace bullying, particularly to enable early intervention in workplace conflict before it potentially escalates into bullying. It is important that management educates workers on acceptable workplace behaviour and conduct. This should be part of induction procedures and regularly reinforced through refresher training. Workplace bullying behaviours should not be tolerated and early reporting of these behaviours should be encouraged. Workers should have a clear understanding of what is bullying and harassment and how to report unreasonable behaviour. The workplace’s procedures should also include how reports of bullying will be appropriately investigated and responded to. If a worker considers they are being bullied, they will be more likely to report it if they know there is a transparent reporting process in place and that it will be followed as soon as a report is received.
For more information on managing work-related psychological health and safety, go to a Safe Work Australia “Work-related psychological health and safety. A systematic approach to meeting your duties”.
For more information on the prevention of bullying, go to Safe Work Australia “Guide for Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying”.