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The Important Role Of Mental Health Awareness In Workplace Safety

In the past few decades, health and safety professionals have become apt at identifying hazards in the workplace utilizing common tools such as a risk assessments and job hazard analysis. Most EHS managers understand how physical risk factors from processes can affect the safety of their workers. One factor of worker safety that is being addressed only limitedly by the EHS community, and the global community at large, is workers’ mental health. During the National Safety Council’s Campbell Institute Symposium, February 11-12, 2020, panellists presented on the importance of recognizing the value of mental health awareness in the workplace.

Pamela Baker, EdD, who is the CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Collier County, explained to event attendees that 48 million adults in the US, or one in five adults, experience some type of mental illness each year. This can range from serious illnesses to anxiety caused by a variety of environmental factors, including work. Undiagnosed mental illnesses can be costly for firms due to lost productivity, reduced efficiency and lost time. Serious mental illness costs the US $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year. However, most importantly, mental illness and associated stressors can lead to unsafe activities and endanger the affected worker and those around them—many of which can be hidden from view and not included in calculations of lost earnings. Elevated levels of fatigue and stress demonstrate a direct correlation with workplace risk potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that workplace violence is the second leading cause of serious injuries or fatalities (SIFs) in US workplaces. The ability to reduce the stigmatism of mental health awareness and actively understand workers’ mental health is paramount to protecting workers—both affected workers themselves and those around them.

While firms must adjust the way that they approach mental health from a process and resource perspective, technology is providing firms with a means of gathering and better understanding potential mental health indicators. In the 2019 Verdantix survey on industrial wearables, 61% of 103 senior EHS professionals stated they will use wearables for vital sign monitoring across their operations during 2020. Wearable devices provide firms with the ability to gather data on workers’ fatigue levels, biometrics and other factors that can help identify aberrant behaviours and recognize workers who may be at higher potential of mental health risks. Utilizing a combination of mental health communication, available resources and technology can empower firms to provide workers with an emotionally intelligent and safe workplace.

EHS The Important Role Of Mental Health Awareness In Workplace Safety Verdantix Blog