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National guidance on work-related psychological health and safety

11 September, 2018

Dr Peta Miller, Special Adviser for Safe Work Australia, said that while work-related psychological injury is expensive, we know what causes harm and that taking preventative action works.

“Poor psychological safety costs Australian organisations $6 billion per annum in lost productivity. This is primarily because psychological injuries typically require three times more time off work than other injuries.

“Additionally, workplaces with poor psychological working conditions accrue 43 per cent more sick days per month.”

Dr Miller explained that work-related psychological injury can be caused by excessive time pressures, unreasonable deadlines and poorly managed organisational change.

“Interpersonal conflict, harassment and bullying, and exposure to occupational violence are also critical causes of work-related injury.

“Most importantly, however, you can prevent workers becoming ill by taking preventative action and by intervening early.”

Dr Miller said that identifying the hazards to good mental health, assessing how severe the risks are, and taking steps to eliminate and control the risks are essential steps to building a healthy and safe workplace.

“You can prevent your workers becoming ill or sustaining a psychological injury by responding to early warning signs and incidents – an increase in unplanned absence, uncharacteristic behaviour and workplace conflict are all clues that things aren’t quite right,” said Miller.

“Most importantly, workers will offer the most valuable insights – they know what causes them harm, and will have ideas about how to most effectively address the dangers to their mental health.

“My advice is to listen to the people doing the work.”

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