World Day of Safety and Health at Work needs mental health focus
The Sector > Jobs News > World Day of Safety and Health at Work should prompt a mental health check for businesses

World Day of Safety and Health at Work should prompt a mental health check for businesses

by Freya Lucas

April 26, 2023

The World Day of Safety and Health at Work acknowledged globally on 28 April should motivate businesses to focus on employees’ mental health, CQUniversity’s Head of Safety Science Dr Aldo Raineri has said. 


Dr Raineri has revealed Australia’s workplaces still face challenges around recognising and supporting the mental health of their employees, citing recent research which showed that 44 per cent of people surveyed said that most managers within their organisation don’t know how to build a mentally healthy team.


These findings are particularly urgent in the context of the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, which is experiencing workforce shortages and issues with managing burnout in educator teams, while demand for services is increasing. 


Researchers also found that only eight per cent of leadership teams were rated ‘very good’ at monitoring and costing the factors that indicate poor mental health, such as absenteeism, presenteeism, employee turnover and stress claims.


“Employers have traditionally not considered mental health as a workplace issue, though arguably, it has been since the inception of modern workplace health and safety legislation in Australia,” Dr Raineri said.


“However, realisations in this area have emerged largely piecemeal throughout the end of last century and early this century. These have taken the form of bullying and harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination etc., and these have largely been dealt with on a piecemeal basis.”


Over the past 10-15 years, he continued, there has been a growing realisation that the  workplace can constitute a major factor in mental health and employer attitude and behaviour, with shift rostering, hours of work, enterprise bargaining, increasing contractorisation, and the emergence of the gig environment all playing a major role.


“Much of this manifested in increased workers’ compensation claims for stress, anxiety, and mental ill-health,” he said. “Many employers, however, while intending to do the right thing in this regard have largely been unaware of underlying causative and contributing factors.”


All businesses, he continued, would benefit from following the Psychosocial Code of Practice.


“The recent introduction of the Managing the risks of psychosocial hazards at work Code of Practice 2022 now provides practical advice and recommendations for employers,” he said.


“Businesses should follow the advice outlined in the code. Management style is one factor and should be examined, but the code outlines other relevant factors as well. All factors should be considered.”


More information about the World Day of Safety and Health at Work is available here

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