Ready for Action? A 28-Day Psychological Risk Assessment Program




Health and safety legislation exists to protect the mental health of workers, including those at high risk of psychological injury, by separating the responsibilities between the worker (for self and others) and the manager (for the work environment). However, the traditional clinical viewpoint seems to ignore this in favour or seeing all psychological injuries as phenomena in need of medical, psychiatric or psychological expertise once symptoms have emerged and persisted. For example, symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have to await the passage of 28 days before diagnosis and treatment, while health and safety law demands immediate action. As crisis intervention is designed for immediate action and clinical guidance requires a delay, crisis intervention appears to be in keeping with legislation created to secure mental health. The tension that exists between the clinician’s advice to ‘watch and wait’ and the peer’s compulsion to ‘act now’ might be resolved by a psychological risk assessment undertaken in the immediate 28 day post-incident period.

Risk assessment for any health condition has three steps: 1. Identify the hazard, 2. Intervene to minimise or eliminate the hazard, and, 3. Monitor to ensure the intervention has worked. An online portal that measures depression, anxiety and PTSD and reports results to the completer themselves has several advantages. First, the assessments can be the same as those likely to used by the clinician should symptoms persist and recovery does not occur. Second, the completer is now aware of their likely condition and the level of risk exhibited by the scores. Third, the organisation can be informed of the overall levels of mental health by demographic variables including team, department and location. With information shown to the worker and statistical patterns shown to the manager both carry their own legal responsibility to act to ‘minimise or eliminate’ the hazard represented by high scores on clinical assessments.

Taking the discrepancy that exists between the clinical viewpoint and the crisis intervention viewpoint a secure online portal has been designed to meet the health and safety demand for risk assessment by informing the worker themeslves (with contact details for support and guidance), informing the organisation’s managers of ‘hot-spots’ of mental health hazards in the workplace and putting both ‘on notice’ that they should now act. The ‘I didn’t know’ claim to justify inaction would become invalid for both parties. This presentation will show how the backdrop of health and safety legislation justifies the use of crisis intervention following critical incidents. It also offers a means by which workers can self-assess and decide how they will tackle the risk they have been informed of, In addition this will allow managers to shape the workplaces structure and policies in light of the patterns emerging from the de-identified data generated by the workers collectively. The potential to use the data generated to underpin mental health policy, identify training needs and show the effectiveness of crisis intervention will be discussed.

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion, participants will be able to:
  • Recognise key indicators that return to duty is safe following a critical incident
  • Assess risks to mental health in compliance with workplace safety and health legal demands
  • Complete assessment, intervention and return-to-duty within 28 days of a critical incident