Prevention Of Psychological Injury At Work
Changes to WA’s Health and Safety Legislation
Western Australia will soon adopt new health and safety legislation referred to as the Model Laws. One fundamental change to the current legislation is the re-definition of the term health to include psychological health in addition to physical health. These changes mean that in addition to preventing physical injury in the workplace, employers and employees are collaboratively responsible for preventing psychological injury in the workplace.
Here are 10 tips to guide your organisation on preventing stress in the workplace.
1. Start a conversation about psychological safety and risks in the workplace
Initiate a discussion about the causes of stress in your workplace either at a team meeting or with your manager. Request that stress prevention becomes a topic of discussion and a priority for the organisation. Work with management to design and support initiatives that raise awareness, create dialogue, and lead to prevention interventions.
2. What are the risks in your workplace?
Conduct a psychological risk assessment to identify the most salient stressors using the People At Work free-to-use questionnaire developed by Safe Work Queensland. See the link: People At Work Risk Assessment for your copy of the kit. The kit includes everything you need to know about how to implement the questionnaire and collate and interpret the data. Remember, stressors include role ambiguity, working hours, emotional demands, workload, low control, the home-work interface, organisational culture and function, organisational justice and fairness, and employee recognition and reward.
3. Get informed
Do some research on codes of practice and guidance material that might help you reorganise and redesign work functions that modify specific stressors in your workplace. For example, the open plan office presents several challenges concerning noise control and distractions. Check out Comcare’s guide on what stressors to be aware of and how to reduce their impact in the open plan office.
4. Develop a policy on stress prevention
Consider developing a policy on stress prevention and management. A stress policy will ideally promote mental well-being at work, it will reiterate the organisation’s commitment to preventing stress from occurring, where reasonably practicable, and it will outline what the organisation will do if employees experience stress-related problems. For an example of a policy on stress, follow this link to http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/assets/docs/examplepolicy.pdf
5. Educate and inform new staff
Consider including stress prevention training into your new staff induction/orientation program. The induction program is often the first process new employees engage in, and it’s here that the organisation articulates its culture of the organisation or the way we do things around here. Tell the new staff the organisation is committed to employee wellbeing and preventing psychological stress in the workplace.
6. Develop a training program for existing staff on psychologically safe work practices
Consider including stress prevention training with all your existing staff every six months. Training will keep the focus on creating safe workplaces and will also provide a monitoring role to assess the impact of stressors continually.
7. Involve your existing health and safety committee members
Your current health and safety committee could expand its role to monitor psychological health as well as physical health in the workplace. Key staff could take responsibility for increasing their awareness and knowledge on how best to tackle stress.
8. Expand your existing health and wellbeing program
If you have a current health and wellbeing program, consider including stress prevention topics and activities into the program. For example, raise awareness on the negative impact long work hours have on employees such as fatigue, loss of concentration, reduction in performance, corrosion of work-life balance, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
9. Access employee assistance counselling to boost your response to stress in the workplace
Access your employee assistance program (EAP) counselling to explore how you could more effectively combat and manage stress. Your counsellor will work with you to find the best evidence-based strategies to help you manage your response to stress. Strategies include mindfulness meditation, cognitive reframing and other CBT tools, exercise, good sleep hygiene, and finding work-life balance.
10. Coach leaders on how to prevent stress from occurring
Coaching in safety critical environments such as oil and gas, mining and manufacturing is a well-established practice. The principles of safety coaching can be applied to any workplace to reduce psychological injury. Coaching, along with mentoring, are initiatives that play a direct role in developing strengths and building capacities, as well as facilitating growth and mastery in the workplace. Seek out a coach that understands holistic and integrative approaches to prevent stress from occurring.
If you would like to learn more about how to prevent psychological injuries at work contact Alison via email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Alison Bickell
Photo: Jorge Reyna from Unsplash