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Health & Safety At Work Act 2015 (HSWA)

Health Isn't Just Physical 

 

The NZ Government worksafe.govt.nz website notes that health isn't just physical. Here is an article extract that helps to explain this (from the April 2017 issue of Safeguard magazine about the importance of protecting mental health at work):

The past few decades have seen a growing appreciation of the importance of good mental health and wellbeing at work. When we consider that reduced mental health is now the primary cause of lost working days in most Westernised countries and that the related at-work productivity loss (i.e. ‘presenteeism’) can be 1.5 times greater than the cost of absenteeism[1], it’s clear that supporting good mental health has significant benefits to businesses and workers alike. Reflecting its importance, a range of different approaches to supporting workers’ mental health have emerged:

 

  • enabling high levels of mental wellbeing (which some refer to as ‘flourishing’[2]) by fostering a greater sense of purpose and regular positive emotions[3];

  • promoting good mental health and reducing the likelihood of common mental ill-health conditions through lifestyle changes or resilience building activities;

  • protecting workers’ mental health from work-related psychosocial hazards that can lead to work-related stress, anxiety or depression.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA), Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) have a primary duty of care to provide a work environment that is without risk to health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable. Whilst focus is typically given to reducing the risk of physical harm, HSWA importantly defines health as being both physical and mental. WorkSafe’s expectations of PCBUs to have effective systems for protecting worker health, both physical and mental, from work-related factors before implementing activities to promote general health and wellbeing aligns to this legal emphasis (Figure 1).

 

Protecting mental health is an important factor for PCBUs to bear in mind as they develop their health and safety management systems. In my experience, the seemingly invisible nature of factors affecting mental health leads many to focus their efforts on identifying and managing the mental ill-health outcomes that arise and building worker resilience to better cope with pressure. In essence, they take a medicalised approach to workplace mental health, rather than a risk-management approach to assess and manage risks that lead to mental ill-health. WorkSafe’s work-related health model (Figure 2) clearly highlights that psychosocial risks are a work risk in the same way that biological, chemical or physical risks are, and the focus on eliminating or minimising them should therefore be the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Information:

 

Key points:
 

  1. Health isn't just physical. The Health and Safety Work Act 2015 (HSWA) now covers non-physical health, such as stress.
     

  2. Focus on assessing and managing psychosocial risks (prevention) rather than solely focusing efforts on identifying and managing mental ill-health outcomes (treatment).
     

  3. Talk with a Principal Consultant about Workshops and Consulting you can incorporate into your Health & Safety and Stress Management Programmes.
     

Figure 1 – WorkSafe’s view of work-related health and wellbeing interventions

Figure 2 – Psychosocial Risks within WorkSafe’s View of Work-Related Health

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