Why psycho-social safety should be front of mind

psychosocial risks

Sonder, a leading wellbeing and safety company, is urging employers to make psycho-social safety a top priority this National Safe Work Month.

Observed every October, National Safe Work Month is an annual Safe Work Australia campaign that encourages businesses, employers and workers to commit to building a safe and healthy workplace.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression and anxiety are estimated to cost the global economy US $1 trillion each year, driven predominantly by lost productivity.

Safe Work Australia figures show that each year around 7,820 Australians are compensated for a work-related mental condition and that $480 million is paid in compensation for work-related mental health disorders in Australia.

Safe Work Australia defines psycho-social hazards as anything at work that could harm someone’s mental health, including job demands, low job control, poor support, lack of role clarity, violence and aggression, and bullying. Under model workplace health and safety laws, employers have a responsibility to do everything they reasonably can to prevent exposure to psycho-social hazards and risks.

Sonder-commissioned research suggests that employees are experiencing aggression from customers, colleagues and managers – and left feeling unsupported afterwards.

Sonder partnered with McGregor Tan to survey more than 1,025 Australian workers who were working a minimum of 20 hours per week. The survey revealed that 62 per cent of employees have experienced aggression from customers, 44 per cent from colleagues, and 35 per cent from managers.

Nearly one in two survey respondents reported receiving zero support after incidents of workplace aggression.

The survey also overwhelmingly showed that employees expect organisations to make mental health a priority, with 92 per cent of respondents considering it important for their next employer to offer mental wellbeing support.

Sonder chief executive officer Craig Cowdrey said that taking a systemic and evidence-based approach toward preventing and managing psycho-social risks at work is good for business.

“Managing and preventing psycho-social risks is not only a responsibility for employers, but also makes sound business sense. Forward thinking employers recognise that their employees expect and deserve greater control of their working environment and conditions. They are actively working with their team members to co-create and promote a mentally healthy workplace culture,” Cowdrey said.

There have been several recent global developments in the work health and safety space with respect to managing psychological hazards and risks in the workplace.

The WHO recently released its first-ever set of guidelines on mental health at work.

These guidelines provide evidence-based global public health guidance on organisational interventions, manager and worker training, and individual interventions for the promotion of positive mental health and prevention of mental health conditions.

This follows last year’s release of ISO 45003, the first global standard that provides specific guidance on the management of psycho-social hazards and risks in a manner consistent with other health and safety risks in the workplace.

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