The number one value and commitment of the Australian minerals industry is the safety and health of its workforce, where everyone goes to work and returns home safely.
Mental health is central to health and safety building on the Australian resources sector’s world leadership in Workplace Health and Safety.
Mental health problems can have an adverse impact on the individual, their families and industry productivity. Companies and workplaces can do a lot to support the mental health and wellbeing of employees.
Australia’s mining industry is delivering a range of programs that promote mental health and wellbeing, prevent problems, provide an effective and early response and integrate such programs within overall health and safety policy and practice.
Depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide and research suggests that at work, people are more likely to seek help from colleagues than more formal support programs.
In recognition of the importance of mentally healthy workforce, the MCA and its partners have worked to build industry understanding and capacity, including the leading Blueprint for mental health and Wellbeing Industry guide.
MATES in Mining offers help to those who can be reluctant to seek it through building communities of people who know what to look out for and help their mates. This independent charity – supported by both unions and the mining industry – has rolled out its program at 15 mine sites across NSW, Qld, NT and WA following pilots at Glencore’s Clermont and Glendell mines.
A peer support program called Mates Helping Mates – a volunteer program which trains employees to assist work mates affected by personal and work challenges – is in place at the New Hope Group.
Peer Support Officers undertake a 2 day intensive training course and can provide confidential assistance to workmates who want to talk about any issues they may be facing.
Rio Tinto’s Iron Ore Business introduced a peer support program in 2012 which equips employees across the business to support their colleagues through difficult times.
Taurai Gusha, a mobile mining equipment fitter at Rio Tinto’s Yandicoogina iron ore mine and peer supporter within the business, said: “In our industry, we have so many people working away from their loved ones. Sometimes it can be pretty hard for people when they’re lonely, working long hours and they may have things going on at home.”
“It’s good to have people at the same level, like team mates, who can help – just to talk. It can make a big difference.”
At BHP, mental health has been a priority for a number of years. Initially their focus was on culture, aimed at reducing stigma associated with mental illness and raising awareness of mental health conditions, and building capacity and confidence to recognize and support people experiencing mental health issues.
The company implemented a program last year to equip its leaders with the knowledge and skills to recognize when someone may be experiencing a mental health issue; feel confident to initiate a conversation and advise on support, such as the Employee Assistance Program.
Everyone in the mining industry must play their part to ensure the mental health and wellbeing of our workforce. It cannot be left to the mental health professionals alone.