Transport driving represents the most common occupation for Australian males, employing 1 in every 33 men. However, this same group is also at greater risk of workplace injury. And it’s not just their physical health that’s involved: psychological wellbeing is also a serious issue, particularly for younger drivers.
Comcare, the national workers’ compensation authority, commissioned a report on improving the health of Australian truck drivers that canvassed almost 1400 drivers. Half of the respondents reported having some level of psychological distress (50%), with 1 in 5 drivers under 35 years reporting having severe psychological distress, compared to the national average of 1 in 9 in the same age group. Previous reporting showed suicide as a leading cause of death of drivers under 40.
Close to 20% of respondents reported having diagnosed mental health problems such as depression and anxiety in the last year. Short-haul drivers reported significantly higher levels of psychological distress than long-haul drivers, who were more likely to be obese or in chronic pain but less likely to report severe psychological distress ‒ or having had a crash in the previous 12 months.
Barriers and solutions to transport and logistics drivers’ health
Identified barriers to health and wellbeing included
- unrealistic demands, lack of control and flow-on effects
- financial pressures including unpaid waiting time and market competition
- perceived lack of respect and recognition: not being appreciated by the public or management
- compromised support systems and the macho male mentality, transferring stress, regret, guilt and trade-offs, dealing with isolation and constant transitions.
These findings highlight the need to address the capacity of drivers to cope with the stresses of the job, but also to aim to reduce psychological strain, especially for young drivers, through mental health interventions. Some of the relevant factors include family, friends, seeking help and learning coping methods such as mindset and resilience. Management capability and the culture and supports offered through the workplace have also been consistently highlighted as protective factors.
“Workplaces have a vital role to play in supporting the health and wellbeing of their workforce. In the transportation and logistics industry, this must include a specific and strategic focus on mental health which incorporates the essential role of people leaders, education to destigmatise mental health and normalise help seeking behaviours, programs to enhance worker resilience and consideration of how to design working tasks and routines which support good mental health maintenance.”
Brianna Cattanach, Senior Occupational Therapist, Gallagher Workplace Risk
Based on the information provided by experts along with drivers and family members, 7 potential solutions have been proposed.
- Enhanced management capacity to identify and address mental health needs
- Education in coping and self-management strategies
- Specialised expertise for physical and mental health support
- Strategies for better sleep
- Healthy food options on the road
- Workforce education programs designed to destigmatise mental health and promote help seeking
- Protection for whistle blowers reporting WHS issues
There are direct benefits to employers in adopting these practices. Price, Waterhouse & Coopers have found that when transport and logistics employers make a concerted effort in this space, they can expect to see a 280% return on investment across all facets of their business. This is reflective of the significant impact poor mental health has on productivity, safety, culture, time loss, insurances and other costly aspects of a business.
Gallagher involvement with targeted mental health solutions for transport workers
In light of these findings the Gallagher Workplace Risk team is working with the Victorian Transport Association to design and deliver targeted mental health interventions for the industry. The initiative, called HeadFit BusinessFit and funded by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator(NHVR), has emerged from VTA’s ongoing commitment to raising awareness and understanding of mental health and wellbeing in the transport industry.
According to VTA CEO Peter Anderson, “The HeadFit BusinessFit program aims to help keep businesses remain commercially viable and sustainable, and retain productive and motivated employees. It is focused on implementing an integrated change management approach to mental health and wellbeing in transport organisations.”
The program is designed to create an improved workplace environment in employer companies by building positive workplace cultures and senior leadership, implementing effective systems and processes, connecting and engaging individuals and providing the individual support into transport and logistics organisations.
Interested in reviewing your organisation’s health and safety standards?
The Gallagher Workplace Health & Safety offering encompasses everything from safety mentoring and training through to health and wellness programs, hazard and risk profiling, and incident management and investigation.
Originally published on the Future Trucking Australasian Transport News website
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