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How mental ill-health risks workplace safety

05 October 2023

OVER ONE in FIVE American adults live with mental illness. From low mood to severe disorders like bipolar, mental illness can disrupt someone’s ability to engage and perform at work. Without considering mental health, your health and safety strategy could falter.

But did you know that mental health disorders can also be considered an occupational hazard?

Keep reading as we explore some ways mental ill-health can jeopardize workplace safety - and the top tips for eliminating these risks.

Why Is mental illness considered an occupational hazard?

In work environments, mental illness can be considered an occupational hazard for the following reasons:

  • Impaired decision-making - if you have a mental illness such as bipolar, you can suffer from episodes of mania where your cognitive function and judgment are impaired. If you are in an attack at work, this can lead to compromised decision-making and, thus, accidents or mistakes.

  • Poor concentration - insomnia is a common side effect of many mental disorders, and a lack of sleep can impair concentration. Without proper focus and awareness, employees could be unable to focus on critical tasks, placing the safety of others at risk should there be an error.

  • Stress - if the person living with mental illness cannot perform well during working hours, this can lead to increased stress. Stress is a killer and can lead to life-threatening conditions like coronary attacks and weakened immune function. The worker’s safety would be at significant risk.

  • Absenteeism and presenteeism - employees with mental health conditions could miss work or come to work when having an episode of low functioning. In either case, the worker will not be able to perform their role safely, placing others at risk.

  • Substance abuse - many mental health disorders often lead to a reliance on mind-altering substances. Without their sober capabilities, workers could place others at extreme risk, become violent, or make others unsafe on the roads if they drive to work.

  • Conflict - aggression is an unfortunate side effect of many disorders, and workers could create a hostile and unsafe work environment for others if this is not appropriately managed and emergency services are not alerted.With all of these risks in mind, it’s important to consider mental health not just in terms of employee wellness, but also in terms of health and safety at work.

Tips for managing mental health in the workplace

Since mental health can become a hazard for the sufferer and other workers, you must have a strategy in place. Here’s how to manage mental health hazards in the workplace.

Implement surveillance

Although your primary focus should be on preventing mental health incidents at work, you should also be able to spot a crisis quickly. By implementing cloud-based surveillance cameras and 360 IP camera systems throughout your premises, your system administrators can view surveillance information easily using a mobile application. 

By having instant access to surveillance footage, HR and security staff can immediately identify and intervene if a mental health incident occurs on-site. This will increase the likelihood of safe diffusion of the situation and the prevention of serious injury or harm.

Provide mental health policies

Mental health awareness and adequate mental health policies protect workers on the following ways:

  • Teaching employees how to safely respond to mental illness in the workplace.

  • Supporting employees with mental health resources and support. 

  • Allowing employees with mental health conditions to have regular paid leave to prevent stress and risk to others.

  • Offering stress and mental health management seminars.

With these measures in place, you can create a safer work environment where individuals with mental health conditions can speak out and get the assistance they need - without fear of judgment or reprimand.

Implement wellness verification tools

Wellness verification tools allow your employees to provide information about their mental health, job satisfaction, morale, and wellness. HR teams are busy and can’t stay up-to-date on every employee’s mental health. 

The software integrates with access control, providing employees with daily, weekly, or bi-weekly questionnaires to fill out based on their mental fitness and fatigue. If an employee suffers from a mental health episode, staff will be aware immediately, allowing them to offer assistance, determine the best solution, and compromise to ensure safety.


Mental health and physical safety at work are more linked than expected. If you’re planning your health and safety strategy, it’s important to consider behavioral factors as a risk. By implementing the tips listed above, you can cultivate a culture of mental health awareness at work while spotting and preventing mental health crises.