Should Safety Pros Address Workplace Mental Health Issues?

Industrial / Construction, Safety News

In a 2018 poll, Safety+Health magazine asked, “Should mental health in the workplace be part of the safety pro’s responsibility?” The results were an even split between yes and no, with sound arguments on both sides of the question – as well as a consensus that injury prevention should remain the top priority of safety professionals.

Here’s a recap of key points made in the S+H article:

  • Mental health concerns are both common and long-lasting. About 18 percent of the U.S. adult population (44.7 million, or nearly 1 in 5) has a mental illness in any given year, according to 2016 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  • Mental health can affect worker safety. Even if no actual illness is diagnosed, it’s easy to imagine how a worker’s mental state might affect his or her ability to make good decisions and recognize potential hazards.
  • Workplace stress contributes to poor physical and mental outcomes. The damage stress causes to both physical and mental health is well-documented.
  • Mental health affects worker productivity and the bottom line. Significant evidence supports the connection between individuals’ mental well-being and their ability to function at work.

Where do safety professionals fit in?

Although mental health traditionally is addressed through the human resources department, safety professionals are in a good position to contribute to team mental-health efforts. Experts interviewed by S+H suggest that safety personnel can:

  • Educate themselves on workplace mental health
  • Raise workers’ awareness of mental health issues and the importance of caring for their own mental well-being
  • Encourage conversations around mental health to weaken stigmas
  • Foster a company culture that values mental health
  • Connect workers with resources within or outside the company
  • Partner with workers to mitigate job-related stressors that may contribute to mental health concerns

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