Uncertainty creating mental health risks in the manufacturing industry

Oct 29, 2014

With the manufacturing industry facing significant change, there are risks around mental health in the workplace due to job and financial insecurity. Some businesses in the manufacturing sector have been scaling down their operations, closing down or shifting large parts of the business offshore.

The manufacturing industry in Australia is among the biggest employers, with more than 700,000 workers across the country. It’s also an industry which is facing significant change, creating risks for mental health in the workplace at a time of employment and financial insecurity.

A 2014 PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report on mental health in the workplace revealed that over the past 12 months, the prevalence of mental health conditions in the manufacturing industry include:

  • 20.5% of workers have a mental health condition.
  • 4.0% of workers have a substance abuse condition.
  • 19.8% or workers have an anxiety condition.
  • 4.0% of workers have a condition affecting their mood, such as depression.

In some cases, there may be workers who experience more than one mental health condition.
One high-profile example of a major manufacturing sector which has been under enormous financial cost pressure is automotive. After a period of uncertainty, the major automotive operators in Australia have revealed plans to end manufacturing here and shift that part of the business offshore.

This includes Ford’s decision to cease manufacturing in October 2016, affecting 1,200 jobs, Toyota will end manufacturing in Australia in 2017, affecting 2,500 jobs, while Holden has announced that it will end manufacturing in Australia by 2017, affecting 2,900 employees.

The recent PwC report also showed that manufacturing has one of the highest levels of workers’ compensation claims, with 355 claims in the 2011-2012. The typical compensation payment for each claim was $17,500.

The PwC report estimated that the costs incurred when employers do not take action to manage mental health conditions in their business costs Australian business approximately $10.9 billion per year. But the report also showed that, on average, businesses will experience a return of $2.30 for every $1 invested in initiatives that foster better mental health in the workplace. In the manufacturing industry, the return is even higher – and average of $3.50 for every $1 invested.

To encourage Australian businesses to invest in and focus on promoting good mental health practices and policies in their workplaces, Beyond Blue recently launched Heads Up, a joint initiative with the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance (MHWA). Business leaders can sign up for a Heads Up Action Plan, which can be tailored for an organisation’s size, industry, needs and goals in the area of mental health.

Create better workplace mental health: register with Heads Up

Strategies for creating a mentally healthy workplace can be developed by going to headsup.org.au where you can also prepare a tailored Heads Up Action Plan for your business.

Heads Up on LinkedIn

If you would like more information and resources about how to create a more mentally healthy workplace, please visit our LinkedIn company page, which is regularly updated with stories and links related to the issue.

If you would like to join the discussion about a mentally healthy workplace, please visit our LinkedIn group page and become part of the conversation.



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