Psychosocial risks and the control of psychosocial hazards will be prominent feature of the health and safety landscape in Australia in 2023.
Queensland and NSW work health legislation will include provisions for measures to be taken to manage psychosocial hazards. Queensland will see a 1 April 2023 commencement of the new provisions and NSW commenced the new legislative provisions on 1 October 2022
So what does it all mean? Generally speaking, Psychosocial hazards arise from, or relates to—
- the design or management of work, or
- a work environment, or
- plant at a workplace, or
- workplace interactions or behaviours, and may cause psychological harm, whether or not it may also cause physical harm.
Employers must manage risks associated with psychosocial hazards
The new regulations fundamentally require employers to follow the risk management approach of assessing hazards and risks and implementing controls. The guidance material suggests employers should consider:
- the duration, frequency and severity of the exposure of workers and others to psychosocial hazards,
- how the hazards might interact or combine,
- the design of work, including job demands and tasks,
- systems of work, including how work is managed, organised and supported,
- the workplace’s design, layout and environmental conditions, including a safe means of entering/exiting the workplace and facilities for the welfare of workers,
- the design, layout and conditions of workers’ accommodation,
- the workplace’s plant, substances and structures,
- workplace interactions or behaviours; and
- the information, training, instruction and supervision provided to workers.
Recognise that psychosocial risk assessment is a part of the landscape of organisational risks
The new legislative requirements suggest that organisations must consider psychosocial risks likely to impact their employees. This could relate to multiple industries and have a significant effect on the way organisations should manage their human resources.
A psychosocial hazard is defined by Safework Australia as anything that could cause psychological harm (e.g. harm someone’s mental health). Common psychosocial hazards at work include:
- job demands
- low job control
- poor support
- lack of role clarity
- poor organisational change management
- inadequate reward and recognition
- poor organisational justice
- traumatic events or material
- remote or isolated work
- poor physical environment
- violence and aggression
- harassment, including sexual harassment, and
- conflict or poor workplace relationships and interactions
What to do now?
Both States have introduced Codes of Practice to define acceptable methods for managing risk:
- The Queensland Code of Practice – Managing the risk of psychosocial hazards at work
- The NSW Code of Practice: Managing psychosocial hazards at work
These codes largely define the principles to be applied in managing psychosocial risks however there will likely be challenges for many businesses in adopting suitable controls. If you have for example, an employee who is undertaking a compliance role as a lone worker for example (and they are subject to repeated attacks from members of the public) there now exists a requirement to manage the risks to this employee. Sounds challenging? You’re right. There are many others that employers will grapple with in 2023 particularly small to medium businesses or Government organisations that work with members of the public.
Safetysure has developed a new framework for mapping and identifying psychosocial risks in organisations and has successfully trialled the methodology for a medium-sized business in Brisbane. Principal Consultant John Ninness said recently “This puts us in a prime position to help our clients manage this confronting task in 2023 however we are confident of our methodology and that we can provide sound evidence-based guidance for clients coming to terms with psychosocial risk management”
For more information on how we can help, call us on 1300087888 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.