27 July 2022
Is Stress a Work-Related Injury?
Stress is not an injury. It is a symptom.
Stress, in varying levels, is a common part of work life for most people. However if your work stress reaches a severe level where it causes a psychological injury, you may be able to make a claim for workers compensation.
When is stress considered work-related?
Stress can be considered a work-related injury when its mental impact can be defined as a psychological injury or illness caused by one or more substantial sources of stress at a person’s work or by one or more work-related traumatic events.
Work-related stress is a major health and safety issue in any organisation and, while it is not an injury as such, it can lead to mental and physical health issues if it becomes excessive, and can also lead to other forms of injury and accidents in the workplace as attention can be affected.
An employee suffering from work-related stress may be entitled to compensation through Workcover.
How to spot work-related stress?
It is important for employers to recognise work-related stress as a significant health and safety issue, and to be aware of early signs of work-related stress in their employees.
- Some of the many causes of work-related stress may include long hours, heavy workload, job insecurity and conflicts with co-workers or bosses; and on occasion, crisis incidents or traumas such as a workplace death.
- Common symptoms may include a drop in work performance, depression, anxiety and sleeping difficulties
- Symptoms of a more established mental stress ailment may include a noticeable change in behaviour and mood, social isolation and difficulty to communicate with peers or managers, work and/or personal neglect, addiction issues, suicidal ideation.
A company can and should take steps to ensure that employees are not subjected to unnecessary stress, including but not limited to communicating around stress and mental health issues, conducting regular formal or informal interviews to assess job suitability and workloads, identify any minor or major conflicts, and create the opportunity for the employee to raise any potential concerns, and providing support structure when needed.
When is stress considered a non-work related injury?
The stress a person experiences can often be caused by factors not related to the workplace. Examples of non-work related stresses include; bereavement and loss, relationship breakdown, financial problems, caring for children and older parents, personal or family illness, commuting pressures and more.
Dealing with these sorts of stresses presents a dilemma for employers as stress isn’t just a personal or organisational problem. It is rarely that black and white. It can and often is a real problem for individuals that affects performance, productivity and behaviours at work and should not be ignored.
Our recommendation is that managing stress on an individual level is part of a broader stress risk management process, where support structures (such as Employee Assistance Programs) and external experts (psychologists, etc) provide the confidential support an individual needs.
Work-related stress: What can you do?
If you are suffering from work-related stress, you can help yourself in a number of ways, including:
- Think about the changes you need to make at work in order to reduce your stress levels and then take action. Some changes you can manage yourself, while others will need the cooperation of others.
- Talk over your concerns with your employer or human resources manager.
- Make sure you are well organised. List your tasks in order of priority. Schedule the most difficult tasks of each day for times when you are fresh, such as first thing in the morning.
- Take care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
- Consider the benefits of regular relaxation. You could try meditation or yoga.
- Make sure you have enough free time to yourself every week.
- Don’t take out your stress on loved ones. Instead, tell them about your work problems and ask for their support and suggestions.
- Drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, won’t alleviate stress and can cause additional health problems. Avoid excessive drinking and smoking.
- Seek professional counselling from a psychologist.
If you have mental health concerns, you could contact one of the helplines or organisations listed in the below link:
How can CCH help with work-related stress?
- We can provide an individual an quantified initial assessment of an individual’s stress and an opinion on whether it is work-related, non-work-related or a combination of the two, as well as recommendations on any changes needed to support the employee at work.
- We can help an employer to understand whether they have a work stress problem with an employee or a HR problem.
- We have an extensive network of external experts that we can refer an employee to, to seek additional support.
For more information or to book a review with one of our doctors, get in touch with us now