Health and safety is often associated with physical problems.
When you think of safety in the workplace most people conjure up the image of someone falling off a ladder or not shutting down machinery properly. While we blogged about Reducing Workplace Stress to Improve Health and Safety a few months ago, this week we want to focus on mental health at work.
Even though mental health is becoming an issue that is widely talked about and has become much more accepted in recent years there is still confusion about how it fits into health and safety procedure.
Mental Health In The Workplace
1 in 4 people in the UK will suffer from a mental health problem every year.
When you consider the amount of people in work then this is a huge number. In fact, 21% of people who took part in a mental health study admitted that they called in sick due to workplace stress. 42% considered resigning due to poor mental health.
Many employers either don’t have the knowledge or the experience to deal with mental health issues and in many ways they can be more deep rooted and long term than a physical problem.
Legal Duties And The Role Of Managers
Only 30% of people felt that they could talk to their line manager about workplace stress or their poor mental health.
Employers have a legal duty to protect their employee’s and the health and safety of their workforce in general. Mental health should be treated the same way as any physical condition. This can mean making reasonable adjustments for their return to work or to allow the employee to continue working in their role.
For example, a phased return to work if the employee has been off due to mental health or adjusting the role that they do to better suit their needs.
Mental Health And Good Practice
The stigma of mental health in society is quickly dissipating. More and more people are now admitting to having a mental health problem such as depression, anxiety or bipolar than ever before.
While this is a good way to increase awareness it does raise the issue of health and safety. Employers have more of a duty than ever to address mental health issues at work with good practice.
This can include training to better understand mental health conditions and how they affect staff in different ways, carrying out risk assessments on employees suffering from poor mental health and promoting positive mental health at work to reduce stress and anxiety.
Mental Health And Health And Safety
Mental health conditions that go unnoticed can have an adverse effect on health and safety.
It can cause a significant deterioration in the employee’s mental state causing them to take time off work or leave altogether or it can result in a physical injury by, for example, not following procedure correctly due to poor concentration as a result of stress.
Health and safety encompasses both physical and mental health problems. Employers have a legal duty to ensure that both are catered for and reasonable adjustments made so that everyone can work safely and securely in their role.