Coastal Transport Services is passionate about understanding and improving the mental fitness of their people.

With a view to helping prevent work-related injuries in the transport industry, Coastal Transport Services’ (Coastal) General Manager – Kristopher Harold – is passionate about understanding and improving the mental fitness of his people.

“Mental health programs can have stigma attached to them, and managers may find it hard to relate to this as part of their job,” he says. But a mental fitness program is an important management tool for taking care of people. “It creates a culture where workplaces can bring out the best in one another, people can ask for help and people can admit mistakes,” said Mr Harold.

The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022 (external link)has identified road freight transport as a priority industry due to the high number of work-related fatalities, injuries and illnesses.  The sector employs around 200,000 workers in NSW and makes up over six per cent of injury claims in the NSW workers compensation scheme.

Looking more closely at mental health in the transport industry, we can see the importance of a proactive focus on improving mental health outcomes for these workers.  There are a number of factors, in this sector, that can impact on mental health outcomes, such as the increasing trend towards automation, the high frequency of shift work and the isolation and fatigue of being on the road for long hours.

Safe Work Australia’s Work-Related Mental Disorder Profile 2015(external link) shows that eight per cent of mental health workers’ compensation claims annually in Australia were made by workers in the transport industry.  Given what we know about mental health impacts to this industry, now more than ever it has become critical for transport businesses to focus on improving mental health outcomes for their people. This makes the work of Coastal even more important.

Who is Coastal Transport?

Coastal Transport has over 30 years’ experience in the road freight industry, providing customers with a range of specialist transport, warehousing, weighbridge and truck wash services across NSW.

With a large part of their workforce being on the road for long hours, Coastal is committed to making sure their people have the right tools and support available to stay safe and well. Their safety strategy is based on zero-harm, both physical and mental, for their workers.

They recently partnered with icare to run a culture survey to help measure their organisational culture across five key dimensions: Leadership, Communication, Interpersonal relationships, Guidelines, Procedures and resources, and Reporting. Coastal plans to use the survey findings as a basis for forming an action plan and to establish benchmarks to measure the success of their own mental fitness program called Maximum Wellness or MaxWell.

The MaxWell Program – a journey to discovering yourself

MaxWell is a mental fitness program focussed on reducing both physical and mental harm in the workplace. It focuses on the individual, helping them to learn about their own mental fitness and providing support for them to improve it.

“It is different to most safety programs. Historically businesses have done very little for people psychologically and are largely reactive when things go wrong. It’s like throwing people who can’t swim into the deep end of the pool and wondering why they struggle. Our program starts people in the shallow end and provides them with swimming lessons to set them up for success,” Mr Harold explained.

As part of the program, Coastal’s employees will attend quarterly workshops facilitated by Flourish Australia. These workshops aim to help Coastal’s workers understand their own mental fitness and what good mental health and wellbeing looks like. Having experienced mental health issues themselves, the facilitators address real issues, providing participants with practical tools to improve their own mental health and build resilience.

But support for the individual doesn’t stop there. A key point of difference for the MaxWell Program is the existence of a peer support structure, consisting of Supporters, Advisors and Champions. Recognising that traditional models of psychological care were not connecting with their people, Coastal will be establishing a peer support program to help their individual workers be proactive with managing their mental health.

“Research has now shown that out of 100 people, 20 will be struggling with a mental health issue at any given time. Of these, only five will get help in the traditional sense and the other 15 will either do nothing or ‘self’ manage. This is where peers in the workplace have a crucial role to play,” explained Mr Harold.

All workers are developed as program Supporters through training, then peers, known as Advisors and Champions are jointly selected and trained by Coastal and Flourish Australia so they are equipped to support and guide their workmates through personal or work issues. “If someone needs help and can turn to their ‘mate’ and get simple effective guidance straight away, the chance of really serious negative outcomes is dramatically decreased,” explained Mr Harold.

Coastal has also made special technology available to help keep their people safe. Called ‘Smart Caps’, these tracking devices provide each worker with important information about their individual fatigue levels as they go about their daily jobs. The Caps are rotated among the employees, so they can learn about themselves, then participate in meaningful discussions about their individual health with their supervisor.

The road ahead

When it comes to the safety and wellness of their people, Coastal is in it for the long haul.  Coastal’s management continues to monitor industry trends and the impacts these may have on the mental health of their people.

One such trend is increasing automation in the transport industry and the potentially negative impact this can have on mental health due to concerns over job security. Mr Harold is keenly aware of this and is committed to developing solutions which puts his people’s mental health top of mind.

Interested in creating a safer workplace?

icare’s team of injury prevention specialists is keen to partner with other NSW businesses in the transport industry who most need support with building a strong safety culture, one that promotes positive physical and mental health outcomes. Contact the team at prevent@icare.nsw.gov.au to find out how icare can help your business.