Mental Health Awareness Week – A Health & Safety Perspective

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Mental Health Awareness Week – A Health & Safety Perspective

This week marks mental health awareness week (13-19 May) and is timely reminder for employers and managers to consider their legal obligations to protect their workers and review their policies, controls and procedures.

The HSE reports that around half of all reported work-related ill health in Great Britain is due to stress, depression, or anxiety. The causes of this are often multi-faceted, whether personal, work-related or a combination of both.

The most recent statistics released from the HSE indicate that 875,000 workers suffered from stress anxiety and depression in a 12-month period. Not only does this have an obvious human cost to those affected, but it also has a huge commercial impact resulting in a total of 17.1 million working days lost.

Those working in health and social work have the highest rate of work-related stress, depression and anxiety. This may not be surprising given the long working hours, difficult nature of the work and what may be considered relatively low remuneration in return. Other sectors that are particularly at risk are public sector, agriculture and construction

Traditionally health and safety in the workplace has heavily focused on the ‘safety’ side of the equation. However, we are now seeing an increased focus on ‘health’, in particular mental health, to help maintain and promote a positive Health and Safety culture.

Our mental health influences the way we think, feel, and behave at home and at work. Whether or not working is the cause of a health issue employers are under a duty to help their employees manage issues that arise. Like any health and safety issue, work-related mental health must be assessed and, where a risk is identified, steps must be taken to remove or reduce that risk as far as reasonably practicable.

If your employees are struggling, the likelihood of them producing their best is low. If employees are distracted there is an increased risk of errors occurring or other adverse outcomes, which in turn can impact on the employee’s safety and others around them.

What employers should be doing to meet their obligations

There are a number of straightforward steps that employers can take to improve employee wellbeing, whether that be the provision of stress counselling, utilisation of mental health first aiders or establishing an open dialogue with employees regarding mental health and mindfulness at work.

It goes without saying that compliance with Health & Safety law is of paramount importance. Failure to comply can have a significant adverse impact on the business, the employees, and the individual directors or senior managers who are ultimately responsible. Compliance can only truly be achieved if there is an appetite within the business to achieve it and this must start with senior level engagement.

Business leaders who are willing to commit to health and safety, set a positive example to employees and thus increase the uptake of targeted measures that help achieve a positive working environment.

Risk assessment is the key

The growing impact of mental health in the workplace will become a concern for employers and, as with any potential hazard, it requires effective risk assessment. This includes:

  1. Identifying potential hazards
  2. Identifying who may be harmed by the hazards identified
  3. Evaluating risk and establishing suitable precautions to mitigate them
  4. Implementing controls and recording findings
  5. Reviewing the assessment on a regular basis

In the unfortunate event of an employee-related incident the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) will expect to see written risk assessments and policies in place that meet current requirements, or it could result in corporate and even individual liability.


Employers who have good health and safety cultures will understand the importance of mental health within the workplace and the impact it has on quality of work, productivity, company culture, but most importantly the impact it has upon the safety of its most important asset – its people.

At JMW we have experience of assisting a range of businesses to identify health and safety risks, take effective steps to mitigate them and ultimately prevent incidents taking place.

Talk to us

Should you require any Health and Safety advice for your business do not hesitate to contact a member of our nationally-recognised Regulatory team. You can contact the team by calling 0345 872 6666 or by completing our online enquiry form.

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