by Zoe Drew, Director HCS Safety

As employers are starting to engage with the concept of mental health in the workplace being within their remit, it seems as if the solution with the loudest voice is getting the most attention, but is this the right way to go?

We are getting better now at regarding mental health in the same way as we do physical health, and so isn’t prevention better than cure? In terms of the physical workplace, we concentrate our efforts on prevention – using lightweight materials, non-slip surfaces, dust suppression, physical barriers and good housekeeping, all brought together and underpinned, of course by a suitable and sufficient risk assessment (see last week’s blog). We want first aiders, of course we do, but they are not, and never have been, the only option in risk management.

I think we are potentially going down an overly simplistic road – many employers are looking at Mental Health First Aid as the only option in risk management. This is a complex area to get involved in and the hope seems to be that if they do this one thing all the problems will go away. Life isn’t as easy as that. Risk management hierarchies tell us we need to prevent the problems from occurring as well as being well placed to fix them.

I am a huge advocate of Mental Health First Aid – we run the course here at HCS Safety, but I am also of the belief that employers should be preventing the problems that are within their control – in this area, the main focus is inevitably workplace stress. There are ways of preventing and managing it, making it less likely that an employer will directly cause a mental health problem or exacerbate an existing one.

We at HCS Safety wouldn’t be fulfilling our duty if we didn’t have a solution for you – we suggest that employers look at a prevent and protect strategy; and add our course on Preventing and Managing Occupational Stress to your Mental Health First Aid training to give you the full picture.

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