Psychosocial Hazards and Risks - Overview
Psychosocial hazards and risks in the workplace must be managed by all businesses, organisations and corporations in NSW as Work Health and Safety matters per amendments to the WHS Regulation 2017 introduced October 2022.
Examples of managing psychosocial hazards at work are listed in the Code of Practice: Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work (2022) published by SafeWork NSW, and the Model Code of Practice: Managing psychosocial hazards at work (2022) published by Safe Work Australia.
Psychosocial hazards examples include workplace bullying and harassment which formerly came under the jurisdiction of the Fair Work Commission since January 2014. From 2022, bullying and harassment has been written over into WHS law under the umbrella of psychosocial hazards and risks.
The New South Wales workplace health and safety Regulator, SafeWork NSW is additionally tasked with overseeing that businesses and organisations implement and adhere to the new requirements to manage psychosocial risks and hazards in the workplace as they would physical WHS risks and hazards, which are not so much "additional duties" but are simply an expansion on duties already stated in the WHS Act and WHS Regulation that are to be complied with in the first place.
To complement this, a new Code of Practice was released in 2022 which covers examples of psychological hazards in the workplace and managing risks, hazards, and incidents.
Impact of Psychosocial hazards, risks, and incidents in the workplace
While it is the right of every employer to ask that people do their jobs and to supervise and performance manage staff as needed, there can be instances where unreasonable behaviour can lead to bullying, harassment and other behaviours which may cause unnecessary mental trauma. This can be from both sides. Just as it is necessary for bullying, harassment, and any examples of psychosocial trauma to be eliminated from the workplace, so it is that persons must not be wrongly accused or victimized because someone or some people have an agenda. This is a sensitive subject and managing psychosocial risks in the workplace must be dealt with very objectively and truthfully.
The presence of psychosocial hazards and risks at work may lead to decreased productivity, staff absences (sickness and stress), high staff turnover and general low morale. These have financial costs.
Some of the costs are easy to measure, such as:
Paid sickness and stress leave
Rising insurance premiums as a result of claims
Other costs may be harder to measure, such as:
Lowered motivation of all staff
Time spent in investigating situations
Hiring and training new staff, due to high turnover of staff.
Some other factors to take into account are the following figures from a study by Duncan and Riley:
More than one in five Australians believe they are bullied at work.
In some industries such as health, education and government services 25% to 97% of workers believe that they are bullied.
Risk Management obligations
Psychosocial hazards and risks need to be managed like any other workplace health and safety hazards and risks. All businesses, regardless of size, have a duty under Section 19 of the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2011 to provide a robust WHS management system. It is the duty of every business entity to manage workplace risks as per Clause 32 of the WHS Regulation 2017.
Organisations should take a proactive approach to managing the risk of psychosocial hazards and risks in their workplace in order to be in compliance with work health and safety legislation, avoid costly legal actions, and avoid penalties and fines.
Available education and training in managing psychosocial hazards at work
Courtenell offers several courses and workshops in managing psychological risks and hazards in the workplace including bullying and harassment using official publications by authorities such as SafeWork NSW, Safe Work Australia, WorkSafe VIC, and the Fair Work Commission. This training is suitable for all safety champions and HR professionals.
Please contact if you want more information on any of these services
Available Education and Training
RESOLVE: Addressing Psychosocial Hazards through Mental Health Awareness
Bullying and Harassment for Managers and Supervisors (eLearning)