WHS win for mental health at work



Unions have had an important win for workplace safety, with state and federal Work Health and Safety ministers voting to regulate psychosocial hazards in the workplace. This is the first time that Australian WHS Regulations will specifically reference risks to employees mental health.

This is a huge step forward in the prevention of mental illness and towards addressing sexual harassment and gendered violence in the workplace.
Regulation on psychosocial hazards will place a positive obligation on employers to minimise and eliminate hazards to mental health from the workplace – just as they are required to eliminate physical hazards.

ASMOF wrote to PM Scott Morrison and Senator Michaelia Cash (who had the deciding vote) to ask for them to vote in support of these changes. In the letter we noted that doctors are at significantly higher risk of mental illness and suicide than the general population.

The primary risk factors for depression and suicide in medical practitioners are work stress and burnout, which are unfortunately all too common in the medical profession. Long working hours and sleep deprivation are the norm. The risks to the mental health of junior doctors due to unsafe working hours has been widely covered in the media.

Australia’s current regulatory framework has failed to ensure that medical workplaces are safe, equitable and harassment-free. We hope that the new regulations protect doctors against psychological hazards, just the same as they do with physical hazards.

If you would like to read more about the meeting of WHS Ministers, the Communique can be found here. Detailed information on the outcome of each of the recommendations will be available soon.