Improving psychological wellbeing and preventing alcohol and drug related harm among young workers

September 2016

NCETA is evaluating a workplace wellbeing program targeting construction industry apprentices. Young workers are a high risk group for adverse workplace health and safety outcomes. This includes alcohol and other drug related and psychological harm. The risks are heightened for young people undergoing the school-to-work transition period.

Research staff: Dr Ken Pidd, Professor Ann Roche, Allan Trifonoff

Why are we doing this research?

Previous research by NCETA has identified that young new entrants to the workforce, especially those employed in trade industries are at particular risk of AOD-related and psychological harms.

International research indicates that the trade industries can be stressful and hectic workplaces where psychological and physical abuse in the form of workplace harassment and bullying is relatively common [1]. Both harmful ADO use and workplace bullying can have severe negative consequences for a young worker’s physical and psychological health and wellbeing.

Mental health and AOD strategies that specifically target young workers entering high risk industries and occupations are essential to improving:

  • Workplace health and safety outcomes
  • Individual worker wellbeing
  • Training retention rates [2].

 Training delivered in occupational training settings is also more likely to transfer to the workplace and result in sustained long-term behaviour change, compared to training delivered in other settings [3].

NCETA has previously developed an innovative, brief psychosocial skills program specifically designed to reduce psychological distress levels and alcohol and drug related harm among first year commercial cookery apprentices enrolled in NSW TAFE. The program was effective in:

  • Reducing risky alcohol use and psychological distress levels
  • Improving participants’ ability to cope with stress and talk with supervisors about work issues [4].

This program was developed through extensive research over several years, informed by systematic literature reviews of workplace mental health [5, 6, 7] and alcohol/drug use [8, 9].

The current study is examining whether NCETA’s program can be effectively applied to first year building trades apprentices enrolled in a South Australian TAFE college.


What are we doing?

A randomised controlled trial (RCT) is being conducted over a 12 month period comprising:

  1. Psychosocial skills training (intervention group) to first year apprentices enrolled in TAFE SA Certificate III and IV construction related trades courses at Tonsley TAFE College
  2. Information only training (control group) to apprentices enrolled in TAFE and non-TAFE construction related courses.

The study comprises the following stages:

Stage 1: Participant recruitment

Participants recruited into the study are first year apprentices enrolled in a building trade-related occupational program (e.g., carpentry, plumbing, electrical/refrigeration, bricklaying, plastering).

Stage 2: Baseline (Time1) data collection and program delivery

Prior to the program delivery, a pre-intervention baseline questionnaire was administered to both intervention and control group participants. The survey contains reliable and valid measures of socio-demographic factors (e.g., age, gender, education level, living arrangements, and marital status; behaviours and attitudes regarding alcohol/drug use (adapted from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey); alcohol use (AUDIT) and alcohol/drug attitudes and expectancies; psychological distress (Kessler 10); self-efficacy (General Self-Efficacy Scale – GSES; social support (MOSS Social Support Scale); life satisfaction (SWLS); a measure of assertiveness; and single item measures of quality of life health rating, level of communication skills, and level of stress coping skills.

As part of the program delivery process, control group participants received information sheets about mental health, workplace bullying, alcohol/drug use, and TAFE/other training providers counselling services contact details.

Intervention group participants received a psychosocial skills training program comprising two training modules delivered in two sessions (1 x 2 hours and 1 x 1 hour) to classroom groups during normal training times:

  • Module 1 focuses on strategies for enhancing stress management and workplace communication skills including dealing with bullying and harassment.
  • Module 2 centres on understanding and reducing AOD use and related harm.

What will it mean?

This study will provide quantitative measureable outcome data about the prevention of workplace stress and AOD use. While the program being evaluated focuses on building the skills of young workers to deal with work stress and workplace stressors, it will also contribute to the elimination of workplace psychosocial stressors.  The program is designed to build the capacity of young workers to identify and deal with workplace bullying and harassment, and increase their awareness of support services.

Where to next?

The current study is part of NCETA’s ongoing and comprehensive program of work addressing workplace AOD issues and improving workplace wellbeing.

NCETA will disseminate the findings to TAFE SA, other registered training organisations and key stakeholders through industry and academic journals, and relevant conference presentations and workshops. NCETA will also work with TAFE SA to explore the option of embedding the wellbeing program into on-going training curricula delivered by TAFE staff both within and beyond the construction industry curricula.

  1. Pidd K., Roche, A.M. (2013).  Hospitality training is no piece of cake! Hospitality Industry trainees’ wellbeing and alcohol and drug use: First years’ experiences and responses. National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA). Flinders University, Adelaide, SA.
  2. Pidd, K., Cameron, J., Roche, A., & Lee, N. (2016). Creating healthy workplaces. Final report: Reducing alcohol-related harm. Melbourne: Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth).
  3. Blume B.D., et al. (2010). Transfer of training: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Management. 36(4):1065-105.
  4. Pidd, K., Roche, A., & Fischer, J. (2015). A recipe for good mental health: A pilot randomised controlled trial of a psychological wellbeing and substance use intervention targeting young chefs, Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 22:4, 352-361, DOI: 10.3109/09687637.2015.1016400
  5. Battams S., Roche A.M., Lee N., et al. (2014). Workplace risk factors for anxiety and depression in male-dominated industries: a systematic review. Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine. 2(1):983–1008.
  6. Lee N., Roche A.M., et al. (2014). Effective interventions for high prevalence mental health disorders in male-dominated workplaces: A systematic review. Mental Health Review Journal. 19(4):237-50.
  7. Roche, A. M., Pidd, K., Fischer, J. A., Lee, N., Scarfe, A., & Kostadinov, V. (2016). Men, Work, and Mental Health: A Systematic Review of Depression in Male-dominated Industries and Occupations. Safety and Health at Work. doi:10.1016/
  8. Lee, N., Roche, A. M., Duraisingam, V., Fischer, J., Cameron, J., & Pidd, K. (2014). A Systematic Review of Alcohol Interventions Among Workers in Male-Dominated Industries. Journal of Men's Health, 11(2). doi:10.1089/jomh.2014.0008.
  9. Roche, A. M., Lee, N. K., Battams, S., Fischer, J. A., Cameron, J., & McEntee, A. (2015). Alcohol use among workers in male-dominated industries: A systematic review of risk factors. Safety Science, 78(0), 124-141. DOI: