Mental health in the workplace has become a recent focal point for the HSE, and was a focus at ‘The Real Health and Safety Conference’ in 2018.

It is of fundamental importance for a host of reasons, most importantly for the wellbeing of the individuals concerned themselves, but beyond that to maximise productivity and to reduce injury and illness in the workplace.

In 2017/18 there were 541,000 new work-related stress, depression or anxiety cases reported, according to the Labour Force Survey. In that same period 57% of working days lost were due to stress, depression or anxiety – that equates to 15.4 million lost days. The HSE is advocating the need to protect workers from work-related stress, and have published a new ‘Talking Toolkit’ which covers important considerations such as demands, control, support, relationships, roles and change going forward.

Self-reported work-related stress, depression or anxiety has shown signs of increasing in recent years, and it is now as important as ever to ensure businesses are striving towards a culture that fully appreciates the importance of mental health as a vital part of its health and safety culture.

What can health and safety personnel do? This is the incorrect question to be asking! The mental health ‘agenda’ is a matter that requires the involvement of all individuals. The starting point is to work towards embedding the importance of mental health into the general health and safety culture of your business. Just as PPE is vitally important in some business sectors, so is the need to fully endorse a culture whereby individuals can come forward to express concerns for their mental wellbeing.

Top tips

  • Understand and be able to recognise the signs of stress, such as loss of motivation, increased emotional reactions and taking more time off of work.
  • Use the HSE’s new ‘Talking Toolkit’ which covers adequately engaging in communication about mental health.
  • Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by carrying out risk assessments and acting accordingly; consider the HSE’s Management Standards.