Building a psychologically healthy and safe workplace – Part 2 Early intervention

Hi, I’m Linda Moore.
And I’m Ian Firth. We’re from SafeWork NSW. In the first video we cover the first
phase of the systematic approach, which was prevention. Today we’ll be presenting
the second in a two-part video series on building a psychologically healthy and
safe workplace. This phase of the systematic approach is about intervening
early. These videos will introduce you to the National Guide on Work-Related
Psychological Health and Safety: A Systematic Approach to Meeting Your
Duties under the Work Health Safety legislation. Ian, can you tell us a bit
about this phase?
Yeah, so in this phase, psychosocial hazards might be noticed
for the first time or they might be presenting because existing control
measures are not effective and you need to take action. For example, you may
notice an increase in sick leave or an increase in conflict, and that may
indicate signs of stress due to an increase in work demands, for example, or your existing systems are not adequate to manage the risk. So this provides an
opportunity to use the risk-management approach that we outlined in the
prevention phase in video 1 and to modify work early to manage the risk of
psychological health. Early intervention is important because it provides an
opportunity to reduce the potential severity of injuries and time lost from
work, and we know that the more time away from work, the worse the outcome. So there
are three main steps in this phase: First is to identify and respond to signs,
second is to take early action, and thirdly develop your culture and
procedures to support that early action. Can you unpack what these three steps
might look like? In identifying and responding to signs, the opportunity can
present in a number of ways. It might be scenarios like a situation where you
receive reports or you observe work-related stress – this could be a sign
that action is needed. You might receive reports of low morale, of disengagement,
or of unexplained sickness absences. You might notice reduced work productivity,
or you may become aware of a workers compensation that’s been laid before
liability has been determined. That may sound quite challenging for some, so let
me talk about a resource that may help businesses. The Workplace Health and
Safety Queensland Mentally Healthy Workplaces Toolkit
is a great resource to support the systematic approach in general, but for
this phase it includes some great information on signs of distress, having
a conversation about it, and providing early support. So Ian, what’s the next step?
The next step is about taking early action. The earlier you respond, the
sooner you can reduce the impact and possibly even prevent psychological
injury. So make prompt inquiries and assessment of risk and take action – and
take action regardless of whether you think a claim will be made. So this
action can include things like providing early support for workers, such as access
to appropriate mental health services to reduce the impact of the injury. And
having a culture and procedures which supports early intervention is the third
step. Support for workers disclosing if they’re experiencing excessive stress
allows managers to take action. It provides a valuable opportunity for
early intervention and also opportunities to provide extra support
and assess the impact on others if necessary. So how would a business do
that? So practical ways to achieve a
supportive culture include establishing clear policies and procedures on
workplace behaviour for managing complaints, and that these policies and
procedures are understood by your workers. You can develop and communicate
an early intervention policy or procedure, which outlines the
expectations of your managers and your workers. And you can provide information
for your workers on how to report psychological health and safety concerns,
so that’s things like how to report bullying, harassment, and possibly client-related violence. You can also train your managers in your workers so that they
better understand psychological health and safety and that they understand how
these can be managed and how to recognise early warning signs. You also
need to be aware of the barriers to reporting. Thanks Ian. A website which
provides great tools and resources to assist businesses in building a positive
culture and training managers is the Heads Up website. Ian, what advice can you
give to businesses about the role that managers and supervisors play? So it’s
important here to understand that there are barriers to workers reporting that
they’re feeling stressed, and these barriers can be things like: they may
have concerns about their job security or they may be concerned about limited
opportunities for promotion if they raise the issue of work-related stress.
They may be concerned about their manager not being supportive, they may
have a lack of trust in the management, or they may have concerns about the lack of
confidentiality. And also common is the stigma of mental health and the concerns
about being treated differently by their manager or their co-workers. So I
want to emphasise here that your managers have a particularly important
role in this phase. They’re likely to become aware early of workers who are
feeling stressed or at risk of harm and best placed to take early action. And one
practical step which is known to be effective is providing training for
managers, and it can improve outcomes and reduce costs. This training could include
skills such as, for managers, how to recognise and respond to early warning
signs, improving their skills and their confidence to have the early
conversations, and to know when and how to provide support. And it’s important
that you have a system that managers can use to provide this support, and that
system could be things like having procedures to arrange flexibility in
hours, in work arrangements, timeframes and targets. Thanks Ian. SafeWork NSW offers free advisory visits and workplace presentations. For more
information, check out the SafeWork NSW website. To improve early
intervention to psychological health and safety, businesses may be interested in
the benefits of a mentally healthy workplace. To find out how to create a
mentally healthy workplace and check out the range of resources and free programs
and services offered, which includes free training for managers and workers, please
visit the Mental Health at Work website. Mentally healthy workplaces can also
provide workers with many benefits, such as confidence, a feeling of belonging,
financial security, a sense of purpose, achievement, and social connections and
networks. These benefits can flow back into the business in many ways, including
increased productivity, reduced injuries, and a positive workplace culture.
Information about the recovery at work phase will be available soon. That
concludes our video on the early intervention phase. Thank you.