The Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner (OFSC) works to continuously improve work health and safety practices on building and construction sites across Australia by administering the Work Health and Safety Accreditation Scheme (the Scheme). Exposure to psychosocial hazards, and the risk of psychological injury as a result, is a serious problem and the OFSC recognises the significant risks of mental health issues in the building and construction industry.
Watch our new case study video highlighting the innovative mental health initiative implemented by scheme accredited builder Ventia. The Healthy Minds program won the Best Mental Health Program award at the National Safety Council of Australia (NSCA) Foundation and GIO Workers Compensation 2021 National Safety Awards of Excellence.
The Federal Safety Commissioner’s August webinar aimed to expand understanding of what can cause mental health hazards in the building industry, the relevant regulations and codes of practice and examples of practical mental health risk management. The webinar had approximately 400 attendees from companies, regulators, and industry associations.
Why Mental Health?
The OFSC promotes best safety practice across Australia’s building and construction sites and, in doing so, recognises that mental health and safety is just as important as physical health and safety.
Addressing psychosocial hazards is not only crucial for the health and safety of workers, it’s also good for business. When someone is experiencing poor mental health, this may contribute to workplace accidents and injuries and reduce productivity.
When managing mental health risks onsite, it can be useful to think about mental health in the same way as how other hazards are managed onsite; identify the hazard, assess the risk, then control the risk using the hierarchy of controls, and monitor and review the control for effectiveness.
The FSC Audit Criteria includes requirements for accredited companies to comply with psychosocial hazard codes of practice and to identify and control mental health risks on work sites. These requirements are included in the following sections of the FSC Audit Criteria:
- WH3 – Legal Requirement
- WH12 – Hazard Identification Risk Assessment and Control
Safe Work Australia provides guidance on managing psychosocial hazards at work. This includes how to identify psychosocial hazards, assess the risks, eliminate or minimise psychosocial risks so far as reasonably practicable, and review control measures to ensure they remain effective.
Safe Work Australia has developed a new Model Code of Practice for managing psychosocial hazards at work, as well as guidance materials to support their implementation. More information is available on the Safe Work Australia website.
Common Psychosocial Hazards
Psychosocial hazards create risks to psychological and physical health and safety. Common psychosocial hazards include:
- job demands
- low job control
- poor support
- lack of role clarity
- poor organisational change management
- inadequate reward and recognition
- poor organised justice
- traumatic events or material
- remote or isolated work
- poor physical environment
- violence and aggression
- harassment, including sexual harassment, and
- conflict or poor workplace relationships and interactions.
OFSC’s Mental Health Survey
In November 2021, the OFSC conducted a mental health survey asking building and construction companies to share their mental health experiences, programs, and initiatives. This survey data provides the OFSC greater insight into the current risk management initiatives and programs used throughout the industry to identify and manage mental health risks as well as support workers. The survey provides a baseline for industry practices in managing mental health risks and an opportunity to see where practices can be improved.
From the survey responses, the OFSC is planning case studies showcasing companies with strong mental health and wellbeing management practices to assist other companies in developing their own mental health programs and initiatives. The OFSC also plans to host educational webinars to help promote mental health initiatives aimed to reduce psychosocial hazards.
A link to the survey’s summary results is available here.
Links to Support Programs
There are a range of resources and programs available to assist with mental health and wellbeing risk management.
State/Territory Government Guidelines
- Victoria WorkSafe: Preventing and managing work-related stress: A guide for employers
- NSW Code of Practice: Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work
- Workplace Health and Safety Queensland: Preventing and Managing Risks to Work-related Psychological Health
- WA Code of Practice Psychosocial hazards in the workplace
- WA Code of Practice: Mentally Healthy Workplaces for fly-in-fly-out workers in the resources and construction sectors
- SA Work Health and Safety Consultation, Cooperation and Coordination Code of Practice
Resources and Toolkits
- Commonwealth and State/Territory Government collaboration: ‘People at Work’ - a free and validated Australian psychosocial risk assessment survey.
- QLD – WorkSafe ‘Mentally healthy workplaces toolkit’, ‘leadingwellqld.com.au’, and ‘Mental health webinars | WorkSafe.qld.gov.au’
- NSW – Workplace Pulse Check | NSW Government, SafeWork ‘Mental health at work’, and Toolbox Talk - Mentally healthy workplaces in Construction (nsw.gov.au)
- VIC – WorkSafe ‘WorkWell Toolkit’
- WA – Department of Mines, Industry Reg and Safety ‘Psychologically Safe and Healthy Workplaces: Risk Management Approach Toolkit’
- SA – ‘Healthy Workplaces’ Program and Health and Safety Checklist
- ACT – Mental Health – WorkSafe ACT
- NT – NTPS Mentally Healthy Workplace Framework
Other Industry Initiatives and Programs
- Mates in Construction
- The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance
- Australian Building and Construction Industry collaboration – Blueprint for Better Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
- Rural and Remote Mental Health ‘Resource Minds’
- Incolink – Bluehats Suicide Prevention
- HALT- Hope Assistance Local Tradies