How to make a claim for a new psychological injury in the construction industry

Three women on a construction site in hi visibility vests looking at some paperwork.

Psychological injury claims can be more complex to manage than physical injuries or illness because the symptoms can vary between individuals and can be harder to notice. You might have two workers with the same diagnosis, though the way each worker recovers and the treatment they receive can be markedly different.

Here we briefly explain the process of making a new psychological claim and share resources to help keep your business moving during this time.

Psychological injuries in the construction industry

Studies have shown that the construction industry in Australia and the United Kingdom have suicide rates 2 and 3.7 times higher, respectively, than their overall national averages [1].

Psychological injury or mental injury 'includes a range of cognitive, emotional and behavioural symptoms that interfere with a worker's life and … may include such disorders as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder [2].'

Our claims data from last year reveals that within the construction industry, 10 million dollars was spent on anxiety and depression-related claims, and an average of 189 days off work was taken off as a result of this (policy year 2018-19).

Supporting your workers' psychological health makes good people, good teams and good business.

What to do when a psychological injury occurs

As with any injury, if your employee has a psychological injury or becomes mentally unwell at work, employers must provide psychological first aid where appropriate, and the employee should seek medical treatment if required.

Psychological first aid involves helping people feel safe, connected to others, calm and hopeful, and ensuring access to physical, emotional and social support. Psychological first aid aims to reduce initial distress, meet current needs, establish human connection, promote flexible coping and encourage adjustment.

There are three basic sets of actions to psychological first aid – look, listen and link.

  1. Look for who needs assistance
  2. listen to understand the needs of affected people, and
  3. then lastly link them with the information and practical support they need [3].

It's important to let your workers know they must tell their manager or employer about any work-related injuries (including psychological) as soon as possible. Employers then need to provide the worker with details of the employer's insurer and inform their insurer of any reported incidents within 48 hours. Alternatively, employees may inform the insurer, or ask a representative to do so on their behalf.

When an injury is reported, the insurer will give the employer, employee or employee's representative a reference number, and the claims process begins.

Employees making a psychological claim

If your employee has a psychological injury that was directly caused by their employment, they can make a claim directly with their employer's insurer. To apply, they need a diagnosis from their doctor, who must detail the condition in a Certificate of Capacity using the correct medical terms.

This means general words such as 'stress' will not meet the requirements. Compensation is unlikely to be issued if their psychological injury was caused in the normal course of their employer taking reasonable action. This includes things such as a demotion, performance appraisal, retrenchment or dismissal.

Following this, the insurer will contact the employee and employer, as well as the treating doctor if necessary, to decide how to best support the employee's recovery.

Important to know:

Early intervention

Early intervention in treating injuries is important, including during the claims process. Find out more about the importance of early intervention in mental health injuries, and what employers can do.

Interventions that work, SafeWork NSW

Types of compensation

There are different types of compensation that can be claimed, including weekly income support, medical expenses, and education assistance payments.

Types of compensation, SIRA

Claim disputes

Both employers and employees might wonder about what happens if a claim is disputed.

More information on claim disputes