Health and safety has traditionally focused on physical safety. In recent years we’ve all noticed an emerging and welcome focus on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. 

Growing focus on mental health in the workplace

The primary duty of care in the Health and Safety at Work Act requires organisations to maintain a work environment that is without risks to safety and health (including mental health), so far as reasonably practicable.

WorkSafe sets out what it expects organisations to do to support mentally healthy work in Supporting mentally healthy work. This position statement outlines risks that can affect a worker’s mental health, including unacceptable work interactions (such as bullying and harassment), work-related stress, and fatigue. 

As with other risks, WorkSafe expects organisations to identify mental health risks, eliminate them so far as reasonably practicable, and if a risk can’t be eliminated it must be minimised. 

Recently WorkSafe took action on mental health by issuing an Improvement Notice to the Wellington Free Ambulance (WFA) in response to concerns about fatigue. WorkSafe has instructed WFA to develop and implement a fatigue management policy. More information is in WFA’s news release about the Improvement Notice. 

Creating clarity around your obligations

At ComplyWith we’re hearing that senior leadership teams are asking more about what they need to be doing to meet their legal obligations to ensure good mental health and wellbeing.  

We love getting feedback like this from our customer community and have enhanced our Health and Safety at Work Act legal compliance content to give more information about mentally healthy work.  We’ve added specific references to mental health in relevant obligations for the Health and Safety at Work Act. We’ve also added a link to WorkSafe’s position statement Supporting mentally healthy work.  

What’s next for ComplyWith on health and safety?

We’re looking forward to discussing emerging health and safety challenges and themes (including mental health) at Unplugged 2021 in August. 

In the meantime, here’s some useful resources on mentally healthy workplaces:

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