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  1. #1

    is stress an official OHS issue in Australia?


    We hear of people going on "stress leave", which is essentially "sick leave" due to stress. But is "stress" now an official OHS issue for employers here in Australia ?

    I don't think it is. I've yet to meet an OHS professional in Australia who believed that "stress" was part of their remit (this is not a criticism).

    But will it become so?

    It already is in the UK, where Board Director/CEOs, HR managers, H&S managers and Line Managers all have specific responsibilities in the successful prevention of stress.

    I have both a professional and personal interest in this so I would love to hear your views on this topic!

    Last edited by Sally M; 03-21-2012 at 02:11 PM.

  2. #2
    I think it depends on the cause of stress, if it is caused by bullying or harrassment then it definitely should be part of an OH&S issue. Personaly I am concerned about the Health of all our staff and at least wish to be made aware if staff are off work for "stress"

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    I believe the answer is yes. Judging by what has happened in the UK managing stress will become part of the OHS remit. There is a broad spectrum of responsibility in managing stress in the UK, This covers senior and line managers, OHS, HR and employees themselves. Stress in the UK has become the new "Back Pain" problem.

    Unfortunately it is not easy to diagnose and all it takes is a visit to your doctor with complaints of insomnia, heart palpitations, nightmares, loss of appetite etc, caused by worry over work related aspects and you can get signed off for a month with a bottle of tranquilisers.

    High court rulings in the UK have laid out guidelines that can help companies to comply with their duty of care when managing stress. Having a stress management policy should be the first priority and this will almost definitely fall to the OHS department in conjunction with HR to set up. I have an example stress management policy if anyone is interested.

    An important part of the high court rulings is that employees have a duty to tell their employers if they are beginning to suffer any stress from work related activities. So if you have a policy that has been implemented, relayed to all and you have conducted appropriate risk assessments and training, it can prevent claims from being awarded if the employee takes them self of to the doctor and suddenly springs the problem upon you.

    The biggest problem facing all businesses is identifying the genuine cases because human nature will prevail and some of the cases will be from the dishonest side of society. This is bound to cause some cynicism as it costs a lot of time money and effort to deal with stress.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Victoria, Australia
    In Victoria, stress is definately an OHS issue. WorkSafe Victoria have released some guidance material which can be found at:

    It was written with the public sector in mind, but can easily be adapted for most workplaces.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Hi Safetyson
    I would be interested in looking at your example stress management policy. It is a growing problem at our workplace and we are looking at ways to address it and provide assistance that works as well seperating the real cases from the phony.

  6. #6
    My view is that stress became an OHS issue when the first stress ca
    Liam's were accepted as compensible injuries. Governments then sought to try and mitigate this by drafting regulation or codes of practice on "stress". These were then put under OHS Legislation as, in my view, an existing enforcement regime already existed. In short, if stress is an injury then it must be a safety issue.

    I do not believe that existing OHS training and education equip OHS practitioners with the knowledge nor skill to deal with stress. The profession that is equipped are psychologists.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Hi All, I am getting stressed (LOL) finding it hard to secure a Safety Advisor position. C.IV OH&S & TAE, S11 & Mining Supervisor, TBOSIET & STCW95.
    2.5yrs experience trying to get back in after 2 yrs in another field.
    Any ideas?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2012


    Hi all,
    a couple of points I think worthy of some thought on this issue.
    Firstly - you will always get workers comp. claims that could be considered fake or phony. But keep in mind the 80/20 rule ie: 80% are genuine and as such, I always treat all cases as if they were genuine.
    Secondly - I agree with Peter in that assessment and treatment for stress related disorders should be left to Health professionals. OHS practitioners should only provide the conduit between the worker and these health professionals whilst ensuring that the employers interests are sufficiently maintained.
    Lastly - Quite a number of "modern" organisations are now providing Employee Assistance Programs which provide an early intervention strategy and may in fact limit the loss of time and productivity of an injured employee dealing with stress. These EAP's provide a range of services and connect with professionals, counsellors and other allied health professionals. Additionally, the service can be provided with total confidentiality for the injured worker which can sometimes be a drawback of the more traditional Human Resource department approach, whereby every man and his dog knows about the problem.
    Work related stress is definitely an OHS issue in Australia and is only set to become bigger and bigger as employers demands on employees continue to grow.
    Cheers for now

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by trms View Post
    Work related stress is definitely an OHS issue in Australia and is only set to become bigger and bigger as employers demands on employees continue to grow.
    I have to admit this is where my personal interests lie. My husband works in a profession where the demands are such at certain times of the year that he has to work 60-70 hours per week. There is no choice in the matter, the work simply must be done. He actually copes with it quite well but I believe that the employer's expectations are quite unrealistic at times and create significant risks for the employees to both physical and mental health as well as family life or personal relationships.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Adelaide Australia
    I am a Lifestyle Mentor in Adelaide. My professional background of over 30 years is in recreation planning and development (I have been a Lifestyle Mentor for 8 years). I have evolved a novel approach to the issue of the links between OHS and emotional stress. It's attracting increasing business interest.

    I see three issues here:
    1) OHS has traditionally been related to physical safety procedures based on compliance requirements. Emotional/mental health/stress doesn't readily fit that system
    2)The pressures on mental health are 24/7, not just stress at work, and the final responsibility for stress management lies with the individual
    3)While it's very difficult to reduce stress in today's frenetic lifestyle, there is much that can be done to build resilience and the energy to better manage one's stress and basically to stay mentally healthy.

    Peter Nicholls
    Australia's People Gardener
    Last edited by admin; 06-23-2012 at 10:43 AM. Reason: removed promotional link

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