BHP Billiton recognises the significant impact that poor mental health can have on individuals, their families and their communities. We recently developed a management framework for the mental health and wellbeing of our workforce.
Some years ago, as a business we were becoming increasingly aware of the impacts of mental health issues on the broader community, and we were starting to look more closely at our own workforce from this perspective. With 45 per cent of people in Australia expected to experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, and similar statistics in the other countries where we operate, we knew it was an issue that needed our attention. We also have a workforce that is over 80 per cent male, and we know from the research that men are less likely to seek help for mental health issues, and, in turn, they represent over three quarters of deaths by suicide in Australia.
Mental wellness is ever changing and multi-dimensional. It is influenced by many factors and, of course, some of those factors relate to the workplace – where we spend so much of our time. Work can, and should be, a positive influence on our physical and mental wellness. But for those who are experiencing a mental health issue, that might not be the case. As an employer, we have a responsibility to think about what we can do to make work a place where those people feel safe, valued and supported.
BHP Billiton is committed to mitigating the risks to mental health that are within our control as an employer, supporting our employees with mental illness and addressing factors impacting on the health and wellbeing of our host communities through our corporate social investment programs. This aligns with Our Charter value of Sustainability, which values the health, safety and wellbeing of our employees above all else.
Our Company-wide framework centres around four key focus areas:
Actively supporting wellbeing at all levels of the organisation and reducing stigma associated with mental ill-health.
Enhancing the ability to identify and respond to mental ill-health in the workplace.
Preventing the onset of mental ill-health through addressing risk factors and developing skills to build resilience and positive mental health.
Ensuring workers with mental ill-health have access to resources and are actively supported in their return to work.
An important consideration in the development of BHP Billiton’s framework on mental health is that different people receive information in different ways, particularly across different cultures. As a global organisation, our response needs to provide a consistent direction, but allow flexibility to meet varied needs. We will continue to adjust and adapt our mental health program to best meet the differing needs of our employees, and we will benchmark and learn from our peers and from mental health experts.
Our annual Employee Perception Survey includes a number of leading indicators on mental wellness. This data, along with data on EAP usage, also helps us improve and refine our management strategies. Anecdotal evidence is already showing the significant benefits of positive intervention.
To ensure our leaders have better capacity to respond to mental wellness issues in our workforce, we are rolling out a Company-wide Leadership Development Program. One of the key aspects of the Program is about equipping leaders with the tools and routines they need to engage more effectively and frequently with their employees.
The benefits of our management framework have already been demonstrated in our Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO) Asset. When reviewing existing approaches to mental health, WAIO found that while there were many positive initiatives in place, there was inconsistency across operations.
WAIO developed a more integrated approach to mental health via a Mental Wellness Standard, which included additional communications through the launch of a dedicated online portal page on mental wellbeing for employees.
WAIO has implemented a range of further initiatives, including:
- regular senior leader communications on the importance of mental health;
- training of frontline supervisors;
- better access to support resources, in particular better access to Employee Assistance Program (EAP) providers and efforts to normalise the use of EAPs;
- information sessions for employees and local communities in support of mental health organisations and activities, such as a roadshow run by an NGO, beyondblue, that visited remote areas and mine sites in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.
Since launching the Standard, WAIO has seen an increasing number of employees empowered to step up, seek support and talk openly about their issues. There has been a marked increase in employee referrals to site-based health representatives relating to mental wellness issues. EAP utilisation has increased from 8.7 per cent in 2013 to 10.7 per cent in 2014, and was 13.8 per cent as at 30 June 2015. This is 47 per cent higher than other iron ore companies serviced by the same EAP provider.
Through specialist mental health and suicide prevention training, leaders have been equipped with the practical skills to prevent, identify and respond to mental health issues in the workplace and create a supportive environment. This increasingly open culture is enabling robust discussions within teams and working groups, helping to raise awareness and erode the stigma associated with mental illness. In addition, hundreds of employees have attended mental health and wellness seminars providing them with the tools to build resistance, with ongoing site and community-based activities well supported.
Our Queensland Coal Asset, BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, commenced a comprehensive mental health review to assess the asset against core elements of mental health and wellness. The review includes employee questionnaires and discussions with management teams, and will also look at the broader aspects that may impact employee wellness.
Improving Mental Health and Wellness Outcomes (PDF 158kb)