When we think of work-related injuries, we typically think about falls from ladders or injuries from heavy machinery. But these aren’t the only kinds of injuries that are impacting Australian businesses. Increasingly, employers are finding that work-related mental disorders (otherwise known as psychological injuries) are affecting their employees and overall productivity.
In this post, we’ll look at some of the statistics regarding work-related mental health in Australia, and then we’ll look at some of the things you can do as an employer to alleviate these problems.
Mental Health Statistics
The following statistics were gathered from a document produced by Safe Work Australia, an Australian government statutory body that drives national policy development on workers’ compensation issues.
According to Safe Work Australia, Australia spends a yearly average of $480 million on work-related mental disorder claims.
The typical compensation for a work-related mental disorder claim is $23,600.
Each year, Australia compensates an average of 7,820 workers for psychological injuries sustained at work.
The average amount of time taken off by victims of work-related mental disorders is 14.8 weeks. Can you manage without one of your employees for nearly ⅓ of the year?
Safe Work Australia also points to the following statistics:
90% of work-related mental disorder claims are attributed to mental stress
39% of mental disorder claims stem from bullying and harassment
65% of these claims are awarded to workers aged 40 and over
Mental health claims account for about 6% of all workers’ compensation claims in Australia
Industry and Occupational Factors
Some industries are inherently riskier than others when it comes to mental health, and certain occupations within these industries are even more susceptible to mental injury. Let’s take a look at some of the details.
The following occupations currently have the highest rates of mental disorder claims:
Defence force members (including firefighters and police)
Train and tram drivers
Health and welfare support workers
Prison guards and security officers
Paramedics and ambulance officers
As you can see, the jobs that involve high levels of interaction with other people - especially under crisis situations - tend to have the highest levels of mental health disorder claims. While it may be impossible to alleviate the bulk of the stress in some occupations, there are things you can do to offer helpful support to your workers.
Watch for Signs of Stress
As an employer, you can minimise mental health problems by watching your workers for early signs of stress. If you notice increased unplanned absences, a withdrawal from co-workers or sub-par work performance, it may be time to intervene. These signs can be indicative of a developing mental disorder, and you may be able to address workplace issues that are contributing to the stress.
When it comes to the workplace, it’s pretty easy to identify physical hazards such as staircases without handrails or floors without non-slip surfaces. It can be much more difficult to identify mental health hazards.
Take a close look at your work environment, and evaluate it carefully with mental health in mind. Is your workplace excessively noisy? Is it too hot or too cold? Do your employees have to use unsafe machinery?
How much mental and emotional effort do your employees have to expend in order to do their jobs? Do they have a level of control over various aspects of their work? Is there a support structure in place for questions or concerns? What is the nature of the relationships between workers, supervisors, co-workers and customers? Do your employees understand their roles and responsibilities as well as the importance of their individual contributions to the success of the whole organisation?