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Psychological injury in the workplace

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A leading industry expert has claimed that the Police force has a disturbingly excessive rate of psychological injury.

NSW Police Association’s Mr Greg Chilvers spoke at the 2006 Safety Show, presented by Australian Exhibitions and Conferences.

Mr Chilvers said that NSW Police is an organisation of nearly 20,000 employees, including almost 15,000 sworn police officers. 

Police officers serve in every part of NSW – NSW Police is one of the largest police agencies in the western world, behind the NYPD and the London MET. It serves one of the largest geographical areas of any police agency. 

It is a young organisation – 55 per cent of its sworn members have less than 10 years experience. It has a very high rate of injury among officers and there is a particularly disturbing excessive rate of psychological injury. Up to 80 per cent of officers medically discharged exhibit psychological injury as a major component of their disabilities. Most of these injuries are preventable with appropriate early intervention. 

There has been a disturbing rise in the incidence of psychological injury among NSW police in recent years. A recent analysis of officers medically discharged in a twelve month period (over 800 officers) revealed that nearly 60 per cent of officers suffered psychological injury.

Recent highly publicised court cases brought against the NSW Government has clearly established that the police employer must do everything it can to minimise psychological harm inflicted upon police employees. Some of these cases have also resulted in high payouts to the plaintiffs. The cost to the NSW taxpayer is quite high. The cost to the plaintiff is incalculable.

In the workplace, stress can be a result of many factors, the control of which is clearly in the hands of the employer (such as bad management practices, unsafe working conditions and poor training). 

For many occupations, the possibility of critical incidents is remote and unlikely and when they rarely occur, is beyond the control of the employer. There are certain occupations where not only are critical incidents likely to occur, but the employee is expected to deal with it on a regular basis. This is true of the heavy manufacturing injuries, mining, emergency services and in particular, policing.

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