Education, Events, Features

Health and safety is important, but what about mental safety?

IQA President Shane Braddy examines why mental health is as vital as physical safety.

Speaking at the recent National Conference, IQA President Shane Braddy examined why mental health is as vital to a business as physical safety, and what his organisation is doing to help ensure people are supported.

With decades of industry experience and as the president of an organisation as large and influential as the Institute of Quarrying Australia (IQA), Shane Braddy is no stranger to the pressures that come with a busy work life.

And he’s not alone.

Feedback from IQA members and others in the quarrying industry has made something very clear.

“Our members are telling us they want us to provide more information around mental health,” Braddy told the audience during a presentation at the recent IQA National Conference in Newcastle.

While we’re living in a time when asking for help doesn’t carry the same negative connotation as it did in days gone by, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy for people to take that first step.

“We want to make a difference by reducing the stigma around talking about mental health,” Braddy said. “It used to be a ‘toughen up’ environment, but now we can talk about these things – and we must.

“If we are ever to improve our mental health, we need to be able to be looking after one another.”

Braddy pointed to the positive fact that organisations throughout Australia, including in quarrying, are making an effort to address issues of mental health and provide their employees with the help they need.

As the national organisation for Australia’s quarrying industry, Braddy sees the IQA playing a vital role in this process.

“We want to work to integrate and support existing strategies that industry and organisations already have in place, because all the organisations are doing something in some part,” he said. “We want to bring all that together.

“We want to be heavy on promotion to elevate the discussion so that it’s okay to be talking about it. And, importantly, we must sustain the effort over the longer term.

“We’ve been doing some work with our New Zealand colleagues to promote the mental health of our members and provide the right service.”

Perhaps the most important part of the process of people trying to maintain their mental health, or address something they are already experiencing, is to take the first step and start a conversation about their issues. And once that conversation is started, Braddy said, people need access to the right resources.

“(It’s important for) people to talk about it and that leads him to go and seek to do something about it themselves,” he said.

“We want to make sure that the right professionals are easily contactable, so there’s this support there for you whenever you need it.”

But to get the best systems and resources in place to help people address their mental health, Braddy believes industry – and government – input is vital.

“We need your help, we need your input, and we need your support,” he told colleagues at the IQA National Conference.

“We want we aim to get some funding in this area from the government and we want to attract our district funders as well.

“We need to be talking about this all the time.

“So we will be coming to speak to you … (but) it’d be easier for you to come to us. You can and you will make a difference.”

No one in the quarrying industry really works alone, and physical safety is everyone’s responsibility. It is the same with their mental health – and the IQA wants to ensure people understand that reality.

“It’s not about ourselves, it’s about others,” Braddy said. “It’s about our team members and their teammates.

“And it does start with that conversation.”

This feature appeared in the May issue of Quarry.

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