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Mental health in the workplace

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The health of workers is not just about physical health, but psychological health too.

When managing mental health in the workplace, it is important to consider workplace hazards such as workplace bullying, work-related stress, work-related violence and work-related fatigue.

Workplaces that take an active leadership role in managing mental health hazards are likely to see overall improvements to staff health and wellbeing, as well as greater business productivity and safety culture.

Knowing how to how to identify mental health hazards and the actions that can be taken to manage the risks, not only contributes to the success of business, but helps fulfil legal duties.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has developed tools and resources that can assist you in identifying and managing work-related mental health hazards, including stress, violence, bullying, and fatigue. Mental health hazards need to be considered along with a positive workplace culture, including supporting those with a mental health condition. More detailed information can be found by visiting the Mental Health at Work section of this website, or Safe Work Australia’s website.

This article, produced as part of WorkCover Queensland’s focus on mental health and wellbeing education, pulls together resources from this website and Safe Work Australia.

Workplace hazards that influence workers mental health

Workplace bullying

Workplace bullying is a risk to health and safety because it may affect the mental and physical health of workers. Everyone at the workplace has a work health and safety duty to help ensure bullying does not occur.

Workplace bullying is defined as repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers, that creates a risk to health and safety.

Repeated behaviour refers to the persistent nature of the behaviour and can involve a range of behaviours over time.

Unreasonable behaviour means behaviour that a reasonable person, having considered the circumstances, would see as unreasonable, including behaviour that is victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening

More information on workplace bullying.

Work-related stress

Stress occurs in situations where there is excessive pressure being placed on someone.

Work-related stress describes the physical, mental and emotional reactions of workers who perceive that their work demands exceed their abilities and/or their resources (such as time, help/support) to do the work. It occurs when they feel they are not coping in situations where it is important to them that they cope.

More information about work-related stress.

Other factors which may influence workers mental health include work-related violence and fatigue.

Fatigue

Fatigue is mental or physical exhaustion that stops you from being able to function normally; however, fatigue is more than just feeling tired or drowsy, as it is normal to become tired through physical activities or mental efforts.

More information on:

Work-related violence

Work-related violence is any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work.

More information about work-related violence, and how to prevent or respond to work related violence.

What laws apply?

Psychosocial hazards in the workplace can create a physical or psychological risk to workers. The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 imposes a legal duty on business operators to do what is reasonably practicable to eliminate or minimise these risks. This legislation defines 'health' to include physical and psychological health.

The How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks Code of Practice 2011 (the Code) sets the standard for systematically managing mental health risks in the workplace. The Code should be followed in conjunction with hazard specific guidance material on work-related stress, bullying, violence, and fatigue.

See also, Safe Work Australia’s Preventing psychological injury under work health and safety laws fact sheet.

What can employers do?

Employers are encouraged to be proactive in the prevention of mental health hazards in the workplace. At the organisational level, controls target the work itself and focus on job design, work environment and working conditions

A series of 12 work-related stress tip sheets are available to assist workplaces in understanding work-related stress, how to manage this hazard and control options that can be utilised in order to eliminate or reduce work-related stressors.

Workplace guidance is also available on the WHSQ website to assist employers manage work-related violence, work-related fatigue and workplace bullying.

More information

There’s lots of useful information on our website, and a number of webinar recordings which may be of interest.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland mental health at work

More information on what is reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way can be found in the Fair Work Commission's Anti-bullying Benchbook and in Safe Work Australia's Guide for Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying.

Safe Work Australia – Preventing psychological injury under work health and safety laws.

Webinar recordings

Workplace bullying: issues at common law

Workplace bullying: legislative requirements

Last updated
22 March 2019