Stress is the second most common cause of workplace compensation claims in Australia.
What is Stress?
The World Health Organisation defines stress as “the reaction people may have when presented with demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope”.
Stress can occur in a wide range of situations, but is often made worse when employees feel they have little support from supervisors and colleagues or little control over their work.
A recent report shows the highest rates of mental stress claims were by workers with high levels of responsibility for the wellbeing and safety of others at risk in dangerous situations; such as the workplace First Aid and Safety Officer.
Types of Mental Stress
Workers’ compensation claims in Australia are coded according to the Type of Occurrence Classification System. Mental stress includes sub-categories distinguished by the nature of the actions, exposures and events that might lead to disorders as specified. The sub categories are:
> Work pressure
Mental stress disorders arising from work responsibilities and workloads, deadlines, organisational restructure, workplace interpersonal conflicts and workplace performance or promotion issues.
> Exposure to workplace or occupational violence
Being the victim of assault by a person or persons who may or may not be work colleagues; and being a victim of or witnessing bank robberies, hold-ups and other violent events.
> Exposure to traumatic event
Disorders arising from witnessing a fatal or other incident, suicide or attempted suicide.
> Other mental stress factors
Including dietary or deficiency diseases (Bulimia, Anorexia).
> Work-related harassment &/or workplace bullying
Repetitive assault and/or threatened assault by a work colleague or colleagues; and repetitive verbal harassment, threats, and abuse from a work colleague or colleagues.
> Other harassment
Being the victim of sexual or racial harassment by a person or persons including work colleague/s.
The hazards that result in mental stress claims vary with worker age. Younger workers are more likely to make claims as a result of Exposure to workplace or occupational violence, whereas Work pressure is the main cause of mental stress claims for older workers.
Work-related stress can take a serious toll on employees, affecting their:
- mental health (e.g. post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety)
- physical health (e.g. musculoskeletal disorders and cardiovascular disease)
- work performance (e.g. incidents and injuries), and
- social relationships (e.g. irritability leading to social isolation, anxiety and depression )
Mental stress claims are the most expensive form of workers’ compensation claims because of the often lengthy periods of absence from work typical of these claims.
Possible signs of stress can include:
- sleep disorders
- muscular tension
- increased blood pressure or cholesterol
- allergies or skin disorders
- gastrointestinal disorders or weight problems
- anxiety or depression
- impatience, irritability or aggression
- mood swings
- memory loss or difficulty concentrating
- extensive use of sick leave
Find out how you can make your workplace safer and reduce the risk of stress
Information and Resources for workplaces:
Additional information source: worksafe.vic.gov.au, beyond blue