Training Mental Health First-Aiders in Energy Workplaces

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2019 Energy Service Group Conference
22 February 2019
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that since 1981, workplaces have been required to provide adequate and appropriate first aid equipment, facilities and people, to ensure that employees can be given immediate help if they are injured or taken ill at work. Yet in 2019, there is still no statutory requirement for employers to provide mental health first aid assistance to employees.

Nonetheless, branches can still negotiate locally with Energy employers to invest in mental health first aiders.

Since 2007, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England has trained over 300,000 people in Mental Health First Aid and aim to train 5 million. Scotland’s Mental Health first Aid (SMHFA), MHFA Wales and Action Mental Health in Northern Ireland do similar work. Mental health first aid does not teach people to treat or diagnose mental health problems. Instead, the training teaches people how to offer initial support until appropriate professional help is received or until the crisis resolves – just like traditional first aid.

We know mental health first aiders are no substitute for professional support or adequate prevention of work-related stress. However encouraging employers to sign up to mental health first aid training for staff should form part of a wider strategy for addressing mental health in Energy workplaces.

The Department of Health encourages all employers in England to provide mental health first aid training and has recently announced plans to train 15 million people in mental health first aid.

Conference welcomes the renewed focus on mental health and wellbeing from some Energy employers such as National Grid and British Gas but these remain exceptions rather than the rule and more work needs to be done.

Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to:

1. Raise awareness of MHFA training with Energy branches and regions, encouraging them to include this in their overall mental health bargaining with Energy employers.

2. Continue to publicise UNISON’s mental health bargaining guide.

3. Reflect on any lessons learned at employers such as National Grid and British Gas and use this learning to inform future negotiating.

4. Support the campaign to require employers to provide mental health first aid as well as physical first aid.