21 January 2019 is ‘Blue Monday’ – supposedly the most depressing day of the year. While misery is on everyone’s minds, why not use today to get thinking about practical ways you can support your employees and their mental health?
A good place to start is with a psychological ill-health risk assessment. These are designed to account for any psychological risks that staff may be exposed to, and are just as important as understanding physical health & safety risks. Here, Beverly Coleman talks us through how to perform one.
This article originally appeared in Croner-i Health & Safety – along with specific guidance on performing a defibrillator risk assessment and thermal comfort assessment.
Psychological ill-health risk assessment
Much of the time risk assessments are conducted to assess physical risks to employees, but it is just as important for employers to assess the psychological risks that employees can be exposed to.
In Thriving at Work: A Review of Mental Health and Employers (2017), Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer noted that poor mental health costs employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year, with an annual cost to the UK economy of between £74 billion and £99 billion.
By assessing the risks to employees’ mental health, employers not only show care and consideration, but save money at the same time.
When to perform a mental health risk assessment
The earlier an assessment is made the better.
Neglecting the risks to employees’ mental health can result in frantic efforts to complete risk assessments when a grievance or claim has been lodged against the employer, albeit far too late.
How to approach the risk assessment
To assess the risk, employers need to consider work factors that could cause psychological harm such as high workload, lack of flexibility and lack of training.
The HSE’s Management Standards set out six key areas: demands, control, support, relationships, role, and change. These, if not managed effectively, can lead to poor health, both physical and psychological, reduced productivity and increased sickness absence.
Using the classic five steps to risk assessment, the Management Standards aid in identifying the hazards within an organisation (step 1), identifying problem areas using existing data and employee surveys to help establish who might be harmed and how (step 2), and evaluating the risk identified (step 3). Employers can link problems to solutions, provide feedback and address individual concerns. At the record findings stage (step 4), employers can develop an action plan to implement. Monitoring and reviewing outcomes (step 5) will aid in understanding how effectively the action plan is working and risks are being controlled.
Remember to respect employees’ confidentiality but also be sure to involve them, as well as employee safety representatives.
See also: Mental Health at Work
For even more practical help on employee mental and psychological health, look inside Croner-i Health & Safety. We have step-by-step guidance in our employee mental health toolkit, plus a Directors Briefing on mental health at work, a Mental Health at Work policy you can download and use, and how to administer psychological first aid.