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What are the psychological risks associated with understaffing?

Early signs of negative psychological impacts include difficulty making decisions, forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, emotionality, irritability, excess worrying, feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, defensiveness, anger, mood swings, and feelings of dread.

Injuries and illness such as depression, anxiety, burnout, emotional distress, self-harm or suicidal thoughts, trauma or stressor-related disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can result.

Physical manifestations include headaches, indigestion, tiredness, sleep disruption, slowed reactions, shortness of breath and nausea. Cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), immune deficiency and gastrointestinal disorders can result.

Learn more here, including information on employer obligations.

Under our OHS Act, and WHS Acts around the country, the employer has a general duty of care to provide and maintain a work environment that is safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable.

This includes providing and maintaining systems of work that are safe and without risks to health. 

Crucially, under definitions found in section 5 of our Act, 'health' includes 'psychological health.'

It’s also worth noting that the impending enactment of psychological health regulations here in Victoria are a significant development for workers.

As you’ll learn here the proposed regulations compel employers to have ‘written prevention plans’ if one or more of the following psychological hazards are identified in their workplaces:

  • aggression or violence
  • bullying
  • exposure to traumatic content or events
  • high job demands
  • sexual harassment

It may be helpful to flag the impending regulations with your employer. It's in your organisation’s best interests to get ahead of the game and commence consultation on their ‘written prevention plans’ because very shortly they’ll be compelled to do so anyway.

Learn more, via our video: Psychological health Regulations Briefing and our Psychosocial Hazards page provides additional information.

And as always we strongly encourage workers, experiencing psychological risks at work, to contact their Union for expert advice and assistance.

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