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Tag: Mental Health

Help Available for NSW First Time Workers

As many young people enter the workforce in 2019, it’s important that they have access to help and advice to face the challenges of life on the job site, particularly for those entering trade fields.

Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean recently announced the SafeWork Young Workers eToolkit which he said is a resource to help more than 500 000 young workers across the state of NSW.

As Mr Kean highlighted, it can be daunting starting work for the first time especially for young people who are inexperienced and eager to please. Young people often don’t know their rights when it comes to workplace health and safety issues like harassment or bullying, that is why the toolkit can prove so helpful.

The toolkit is a free-to-access tool which also has real life stories and advice for young workers.

Mr Kean explained,

“It’s often hard enough for older workers to have confidence when dealing with workplace health and safety issues, let alone young people entering the workplace for the first time.


Some of the issues that the toolkit covers includes bullying, abuse by customers, injuries at work and mental health issues.

The toolkit is important because this group of workers has been identified as ‘at risk’. In 2017 there were six fatalities involving people under the age of 25 in NSW.

In the 2015-2016 more than 13,000 temporary disability and 3 permanent disability claims were made by young workers.

“These statistics are devastating. We want to make sure young workers, their supervisors and employers have the best information possible to avoid tragedies in the workplace,” Mr Kean said.

“The last thing we want to see is new workers being put in dangerous situations, especially if it’s the first job they’ve ever had.

“It’s essential that businesses provide refresher training and adequate supervision all year round. This should include things like induction programs and safety training, so young workers understand safety policies and procedures.


For those entering the construction industry for the first time, whether young or old, it’s important not only that they are supervised until they are more at ease and comfortable with the work involved, but that they are adequately trained. Training for the construction industry is not just task specific or site specific, while these are important – general construction induction training is mandatory for all workers.

General construction induction training or how to work safely in the construction industry training is a basic requirement mandated by the federal government in 2012 when workplace health and safety laws were unified. It’s important that employers ensure all workers, are in possession of a white card, the proof that they have completed this induction safety training. For more visit

How Toxic Work Stress Can Affect Your Health


Everyone experiences some form of stress at some time in their lives but toxic stress left unchecked can have devastating effects on our mental and physical health.

Experts have warned about the danger of toxic stress. Safe Work Australia said that 92 per cent of serious work related mental disorder claims can be attributed to mental stress.

In a 2015 study, Stanford University organisational behaviour professor Jeffrey Pfeffer found that poor management in the USA was responsible for almost 8 per cent of annual health costs and 120,000 deaths annually.

He argued that mental health and stress in the workplace is not being addressed, but rather only the physical health and safety of workers was being focused on.

Signs of Toxic Stress:

According to US Clinical psychologist Monique Reynolds from the Centre for Anxiety and Behavioural Change, the first sign of a destructive job is loss of sleep. These people will likely wake up in the middle of the night thinking about their to-do list.

If you have a pattern of insomnia, it could be a sign of unhealthy job stress.

Another sign is chronic tension in the neck and shoulders which also causes migraines and tension headaches. Dr Reynolds said that because our nervous systems are constantly on edge in these toxic jobs, we are constantly waiting to react to that unpleasant boss or co-worker.

If you have had previous bouts of mental illness, this can cause you to “cross the clinical threshold”, experts warn.

Research also shows that chronic stress can affect your immune system and make you sick more often.

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Funding for Investigation into High Construction Suicide Rate in NZ.


The New Zealand construction industry is facing a similar mental health crisis as Australia, looking to the Mates in Construction programme as inspiration for its own plan to tackle the issue.

With Mates in Construction proving successful here in Australia, with a marked decrease in suicides in the industry, SiteSafe – a New Zealand based organisation is looking to mirror a similar approach.

The organisation has received funding to study why the suicide rate is so high in the industry and why mental health issues are so common among construction  workers.

A recent study found that 6.9 per cent of overall suicides were in the construction industry.

SiteSafe is looking into 300 suicides of construction workers to learn more.

The Mates in Construction programme has reached more than 120,000 workers in Tasmania and suicide rates have fallen as a result.

In a male-dominated industry, it is important to identify alternative ways to get workers to open up about their mental health as they may be less likely to speak out.

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Remaining Mentally Healthy in Construction


Improving the mental health of construction workers should be a priority for every construction employer and was recently the focus of a special event at Hazelbrook.

The event ” Staying Healthy in the Construction Industry” featured speakers from the Housing Industry Association as well as lawyers and other professionals.

MATES in Construction have pointed out that the construction industry has one of the highest rates of suicide compared to other industries. It is important that we create awareness around mental health and events like this one are crucial in doing so.

NSW Government’s Plan to Reduce Deaths in Construction


The NSW government has a plan to address workplace deaths and accidents in the construction industy, pledging $80 billion to NSW infrastructure over the next 4 years.

As infrastructure construction amps up over the coming years, safety in the construction industry is a priority with  more than 400,000 people expected to be employed by the industry by 2022.

Between 2013-14 and 2015-16, 35 workers lost their lives on construction sites in the state, mostly due to falls from heights.

The state government has been working with more than 100 industry representatives to gain a better understanding of the industry and its safety needs. The feedback has given the government an idea of how to better support businesses and workers. The plan addresses issues such as asbestosis, management of musculoskeletal injuries and mental health of workers.

The plan will precede 4 sub-sector plans that address specifically the high rise buildings, housing, infrastrastructure and demolition sectors of the industry.


WorkSafe Victoria Advertising Campaign Redefines Workplace Safety


WorkSafe Victoria launched an advertising campaign which shared the opinions of working Victorians to highlight the changing nature of what health and safety at work means.

People from a range of industries talk about their own workplace health and safety views.

According to WorkSafe Chief Executive Clare Amies, the campaign will hopefully reinforce the importance of physical and mental health, safety and wellbeing for every worker.

She highlighted that as the workforce ages, the industry mix evolves and people work more flexibly and in broader types of employment, the concept of ‘work’ itself is changing.

She also said that health and safety must include prevention of mental injury, as well as physical health and safety.


NSW Government Invests in Workplace Mental Health

NSW Ministers recently announced the Mentally Healthy Workplaces in NSW Strategy 2022, pledging $55 million for mental health initiatives.

The Strategy was developed in collaboration with people that have experience with mental health issues first-hand – including workers, advocates, workers and industry and worker representatives.

Ministers highlighted that it is the single biggest investment in workplace mental health Australia has ever seen.

With mental ill health affecting half a million NSW workers at any given time, the ministers highlighted the importance of investing in mental health initiatives.

The plan will include manager training and recovery at work programs, research projects to help inform ongoing strategies, a media campaign and online resources to raise awareness, assessment and mentoring tools to support businesses.


Work Stress Link to Common Mental Illness

According to the latest research by the Black Dog Institute, high strain on the job is linked to an increased risk of common mental health issues such as depression and anxiety among middle-aged workers.

The research shows that up to 14 per cent of new cases of common mental health illnesses, such as depression could be prevented simply by reducing job strain.

Job strain was classified by researchers as a combination of high work pace, intensity and conflicting demands, together with low control or decision-making power.

According to lead author Associate Professor Samuel Harvey from the Black Dog Institute, mental illness is the leading cause of sickness absence and long term work incapacity in the nation.  Harvey explained that this absence equates to $11 billion lost by Australian businesses annually.

The good news is that research also provides strong evidence that organisations can improve employee wellbeing by modifying their workplaces to focus on being more mentally healthy.

Harvey explained,

“Our modelling used detailed data collected over 50 years to examine the various ways in which particular work conditions may impact an employee’s mental health.

“These findings serve as a wake-up call for the role workplace initiatives should play in our efforts to curb the rising costs of mental disorders.

“It’s important to remember that for most people, being in work is a good thing for their mental health.”

“But this research provides strong evidence that organisations can improve employee wellbeing by modifying their workplaces to make them more mentally healthy.”

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The team involved in the research were from all over the world, analysing health data from 6870 participants. They investigated if people with job strain at the age of 45 were more likely to develop mental illness by age 50.

They also considered non-work related factors such as divorce, financial woes, housing, instability, stressful life events etc. Researchers also included in their research controls for people’s temperament, personality and other personal factors like IQ, education etc.

Researchers found that participants experiencing higher job demands, lower job control, and higher job strain were at greater odds of developing mental illness by age 50.

“Our research attempted to account for the possible reasons an individual’s work conditions could impact their mental health – and this modelling is the most complete ever published,” said Associate Professor Harvey.

“The results indicate that if we were able to eliminate job strain situations in the workplace, up to 14 percent of cases of common mental illness could be avoided.

“Workplaces can adopt a range of measures to reduce job strain, and finding ways to increase workers’ perceived control of their work is often a good practical first step. This can be achieved through initiatives that involve workers in as many decisions as possible.”

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Ensuring Your Workplace is Mentally Healthy


The NSW Goverment held a Mentally Healthy Workplaces Summit recently where it encouraged all workplaces to improve mental health among employees.

The summit was held following state government commissioned research which showed that less than 25 per cent of NSW businesses have measures in place to specifically address mental health.

Although one in six working age people suffer from a mental illness in Australia, many employers aren’t doing enough to address the issue in the workplace.

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Take Mental Health Seriously, Firms Urged


In comparison to the general population, construction industry workers are more than twice as likely to commit suicide, according to research from Mates in Construction and consulting firm PWC.

Mates in Construction is an organisation working to train and assist employers to manage mental health issues among employees. Using research from Mates in Construction, Milton Walters, VP of Marketing APAC at Procore described several factors which he says may lie behind the high suicide rates across the sector,

Courtesy largely of the male-dominated nature of the industry, a masculine culture has resulted in images of a tough and hard worker and discouragement for those who experience anxiety or struggles from raising issues openly. The project by project nature of the work can lead to a lack of consistency and routine which provides generates a sense of instability (and financial insecurity). This also exposes workers to constant changes in work crews and inhibits their ability to formulate close working relationships.


Other studies have revealed similar findings, including one by researchers at Deakin University this year which found that construction worker suicides can be classified under 3 wider categories.

First, the overarching economic structure of the industry fuels work-related stress factors including transient working conditions and a lack of secure employment as well as debt related stressors and pressure at work. Many of those in the study also experience personal stresses such as legal issues, family breakdown or substance abuse and/or mental health issues. Finally, the researchers echoed Walter’s view on the masculine nature of the work environment and associated stigma associated with mental health issues or reaching out for help.


While there are a number of organisations improving awareness, education and support, there needs to be action on several fronts, Walters says.

One of the solutions he says is individual employers offering services to their teams such as employee assistance programs or training around mental health at the beginning of a new project.

It is vitally important to increase awareness about signs that a colleague may be experiencing mental health problems and how to take action.

He also highlighted the importance of open and honest communication and opening up discussion in the industry, he explained,

“It’s time for the construction industry to ensure that mental illness is something that can be talked about openly,” Walters said. “There needs to be an open conversation to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

“Workers need to know that they are able to talk about their experiences without feeling isolated, ashamed or frightened – and it’s up to the industry to open up this discussion.”