Stronger WHS Regulations for Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work

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While identifying and removing hazards to physical health and safety is the norm in most workplaces, the same cannot be said for psychological health and safety. To address this imbalance, Australia is elevating psychological health and safety to the same level as physical health and safety. In other words, just as organisations must do what is reasonably practical to eliminate and reduce the risk of physical hazards, the same must be done for psychological hazards.

Under the revised workplace health and safety (WHS) legislation, employers will need to identify, and properly manage, psychosocial risks, and report complaints of psychosocial hazards to WorkSafe. Failing to do so will expose your organisation to prosecution and penalties.

What are psychosocial hazards?

According to WorkSafe Victoria, psychosocial hazards are factors in the design or management of work that increase the risk of work-related stress and can lead to psychological or physical harm.

Psychosocial risk is a risk to the health or safety of a person from a psychosocial hazard.

Common psychosocial hazards at work include:

Work demands (too high or too low)

Low job control

Poor support

Lack of role clarity

Poor workplace relationship

Low levels of recognition and reward

Poorly managed change

Poor environmental conditions

Poor organisational justice

Remote or isolated work

Violent or traumatic events

How employers can meet WHS regulations on psychosocial hazards

Given the adoption of the model WHS regulations on psychosocial risk across many Australian state and territory jurisdictions, psychosocial risk now represent one of the key health and safety priorities for workplaces. Just as our focus on physical safety has evolved and improved in workplaces over the years, so too has the need for psychological health and safety.

Indeed, the focus has moved upstream, from supporting people before their mental health conditions progress to the crisis stage, to proactively managing hazards and risks in the business by:

Considering job design and systems of work

Conducting risk assessments

Consulting with employees and stakeholders

Implementing mentally healthy systems, policies, and practices,

Conducting proactive training for managers and employees on identifying psychosocial hazards,

Building workplace cultures that prevent harm and help everyone to thrive

Increasingly, organisations are realising that the mental wellbeing of workers is as important as physical health in achieving the most efficient outcomes. The revised WHS regulations will likely require employers to do more than they may currently be doing to consider these hazards. Employers will need to show that they have consulted with workers and considered job design and adjustments to work and work systems to eliminate risk.

About the author: Pippa Rose is General Manager at Aspect Group. She is an AHPRA Registered Occupational Therapist with WHS qualifications and a Qualified Lead Auditor Safety Management Systems including ISO 45003:2021 (Management of Psychosocial Risks).