Health and safety

Mental health in the workplace

Downer’s Mining business recognised that factors outside, as well as at work, can influence workers’ mental wellness. At times, employees may need additional support to cope with work and lifestyle challenges. To support workers during the challenging time in the Mining industry, Downer introduced a mental health first aid framework. The program was supported by research and developed in collaboration with the Workforce Health Innovation research group at Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

During development of the program, to gain a better understanding of the current mental health status of the workforce, employees were asked to participate in a range of surveys covering lifestyle and behaviours that may link to poor mental health.

Mental health champions were provided with a framework and with mental health first aid training to empower them to engage with workers, provide support and encourage an environment where those experiencing challenges to their mental health would feel comfortable to receive support.

Key components included several toolbox talks and a digital story which showcased an employee’s personal journey with depression and suicidal ideation. Resources for families and employees targeting preventative strategies for health and wellbeing were developed and distributed. To support the program, the business appointed two registered mental health professionals to provide more proactive direct mental health support and referral for employees.

Across the mining business almost 60 courses have been conducted since May 2015 and over 400 employees trained. In addition, over 50 family members were invited and completed the training in regions where community mental health services are poor.

Mental health awareness and peer support training has also been delivered with more than 60 employees trained and ready to provide support to colleagues.

On average, the appointed mental health professionals have supported over 300 employees, family members and in-house management per calendar year. Since 2016 multiple employees presented with significant mental health distress and were connected to professional support immediately preventing further potential illness/injury.

The EAP utilisation rate increased from less than three per cent to nearly five per cent in the past 12 months. This demonstrates the effectiveness of the promotion of the service and the internal referral rates from both the appointed mental health professionals and trained supervisors and peer supporters.

The success of the program has meant that mental health first aid training is now mandated for Superintendent roles and above.

Our program has had a demonstrable significant impact on culture and the health and wellbeing of our employees and their families. It has also received multiple public acknowledgements nationally for its innovative and inclusive approach:

  • Corporate Health Award 2014 QLD Mining Industry Health & Safety Conference
  • Gold Recognition Healthier Happier Workplaces Initiative 2015 QLD Government
  • Safety Health & Innovation Award, People 2015 Chamber of Minerals & Energy, WA
  • Health Excellence Award 2015 NSW Minerals Council

Downer’s Executive Team recognised the importance of ensuring the mental health and wellbeing of all employees and has supported the introduction of a consistent Group-wide mental health strategy.

Downer is exploring the cross divisional application of this program. Cross divisional training in Mental Health First Aid has begun.

This initiative demonstrates Downer's contribution to achieve the following Sustainable Development Goals: