Australasia’s largest bus operator Kinetic has made significant in-roads towards improving mental health outcomes for drivers, through a pilot program supported by industry and WorkCover Queensland.
The Steering Healthy Minds initiative – which began as a small pilot program in Queensland – has now been rolled out in more locations in Queensland with plans to expand interstate to build mentally healthy workplaces for Australian transport workers.
Steering Healthy Minds
WorkCover Queensland, together with industry, recognised the need to better support mental health outcomes for transport industry workers, and in 2019, we provided an initial $25,000 funding to establish Steering Healthy Minds and an initial pilot program.
As part of the pilot, Steering Healthy Minds partnered with Surfside Buslines on the Gold Coast (Kinetic) and other transport companies, to provide mental health first aid training to identified workers and set up a peer support network of drivers.
While transport workers are often out on the road and disconnected from their workplaces for long periods of time, there are opportunities for drivers to connect and have peer-to-peer conversations around mental health, such as at truck stops, roadhouses, lunch areas or rest areas.
Around 100,000 Queenslanders are employed in the transport industry overall. While the industry employs people of all ages and genders, the average transport worker is male and 54 years of age.
Transport workers are less likely than workers in other industries to return to work after a mental health related injury at work. Factors may include long work hours and shifts, work pressure and job insecurity.
Steering Healthy Minds identified three pillars for improving mental health within the transport industry: normalising discussion on mental health; promoting support for workers with mental health concerns; and support to establish peer-to-peer mental health programs on the ground.
"It's OK to talk about mental health"
Drivers who are now trained mental health first aiders have expressed how important the initiative has been to them and their peers.
“This course is relevant to everyone's daily life events and can save jobs, relationships, lives and careers. Put the next one on your ‘To Do’ list,” one bus driver said.
“It’s OK to talk about mental health. Never be too busy, and always be prepared to listen, especially when someone has plucked up enough courage to reach out to you and ask you for a chat,” said another driver.
"That could be one of the hardest things for them to do. Five minutes out of your busy schedule, may be the most important five minutes to someone else, and could be the very thing that saves their life,” they said.
After being extended across Queensland thanks to $250,000 funding from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, the initiative is now being rolled out in Western Australia to support the mental health of transport workers, with other states set to follow.
Steering Healthy Minds is a collaborative mental health initiative initially set up by the Transport Workers Union QLD (TWU), Queensland Trucking Association (QTA), Queensland Council of Unions (QCU), WorkCover Queensland, TWU Super, the Qld Trucking Association, the Transport Education Audit Compliance Health Organisation (TEACHO), and Kitney OHS.