Mental health and well-being in the workplace was the focus of a research symposium at Federation University on Friday.
The Victorian Institute of Occupational Safety and Health research symposium explored mental health, well-being and other psychosocial issues, including aggression, in diverse workplaces such as health and policing.
The symposium comes after Federation University research released earlier this year found nine out of ten nurses and health care workers have been assaulted, abused or harassed by patients or their carers in the past year and experienced high levels of workplace aggression from supervisors and colleagues.
Symposium speaker and Federation University Dean School of Nursing and Healthcare Professions Wendy Cross told The Courier there was a lot of work to be done to change organisational cultures for the improved mental health and well-being of staff, particularly in the health profession.
"Workplaces of the 21st century have changed significantly. We now have to put significant organisational change in place to account for worker stress and the squeeze on productivity," she said.
"There has been increasing occupational violence in a number of workplaces, particularly health."
At Ballarat Health Services, reported incidents of occupational violence increased 32 per cent over the past two financial years with 2186 incidents reported in 2017-18 - or about six per day.
Researchers say fear of aggression in the workplace impacted on the health and well-being of staff, which in turn could affect the quality and safety of patient care.
Chair of the National Mental Health Commission Lucinda Brogden was the keynote speaker at the Federation University research symposium on Friday.
She said every worker was entitled to a psychologically safe workplace, as they are to a physically safe workplace.
"Generally the industries like manufacturing and mining, the more industrial ones that have had a stronger history and focus on physical safety, are probably further advanced in embracing and understanding the needs around psychological safety, but across the board we have a long way to go," she said.
"What we find across the board when we deal with organisations is they understand they have an obligation, they are just not as clear as what they have to do to meet that obligation.
"We need to educate them, support them in initiatives, provide risk assessment support and treatment support."
The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy is working towards a reduction in the number of work fatalities due to injury of at least 20 per cent, as well as a 30 per cent reduction in the number of claims resulting in one or more weeks off work.
Ms Cross said she believed the way to improve mental health and well-being in workplaces was to have safety professionals in the health sector and all industries who have a role to play in changing organisational cultures.
"A professional approach to organisational culture change and leadership who understands it is paramount," she said.
"Work health is social health as well as physical health. Organisations' best asset is their workers so they have a responsibility and a duty to protect their assets."
The theme of the Federation University research symposium was 'From Energy Models to Mental Health and Well-being: The Contemporary and Future Workplace'.