Stress for workers can have far ranging effects, from lowered productivity to injuries and fatigue.
For many workers engaged in the mining industry in Australia the experience of work stress is a very personal and private issue.
Behind tough exteriors, many share the experience of difficulty sleeping, fatigue, feelings of anxiety, loneliness and depression.
This often goes hand in hand with physical symptoms such as an exacerbation of musculoskeletal problems and other existing health complaints.
Making good money has bitter sweet consequences.
For some workers, the dangling carrot encourages them to put up with a working environment they are having trouble adapting to even though they might be better suited psychologically to working in a lower paid job closer to home.
Ultimately both the organisation and the worker may end up paying a price for their stoic endurance as the stress begins to undermine their health, relationships and ability to function across both work and personal domains.
This work stress is also behind the relatively high attrition rate in workers in their first year in the industry.
Surprisingly, research into the implications of work stress in the mining industry on the physical and psychological health and work performance of the workforce is still in its infancy, behind that of research into other high risk industries where there is a clearer understanding of the nature of the relationships between work stress, mental and physical health, and work performance.
Based on Australian mental health statistics however there are irrefutable indicators that the mining industry in general needs to embrace a broader context to the notion of 'zero harm'.
With more than one million Australians suffering from either depression or anxiety in a given year and with research showing that both depression and anxiety increases the likelihood of workplace accident or injury, it is clear that mining companies need to develop further their understanding of Occupational Health and Safety Issues as it relates to stress and overall fatigue.
There have been many incidents where mining stress or fatigue has been directly related to an injury or even death, both on and off minesites. Long hours and hot seat changeovers have seen cars crushed and people injured, and have lead to threats of strike action at coal mines such as Collie, where workers are up in arms over the potential hazard it poses.
Two fatalities involving drive in drive out workers in Yeppoon and Dysart in 2007 and 2008 were caused by fatigued miners getting behind the wheel, according to Central Queensland coroner Anne Hennessy.
Imagine the overall benefits to the industry if the work force could switch on and off at will, mechanisms within their own brain and body that could help them to combat stress and fatigue and to adapt to the daily challenges that face them at work?
There is a technique that has been scientifically proven to do just that: a technique called Autogenic Training.
Continued in Part 2