Consultation and Psychosocial Hazards and Risks
Weekly WHS Article 25th October 2022
WHS law in NSW requires that businesses, organizations, and sole traders consult with their workers on matters relating to health and safety in the workplace. Consulting with the workforce is mandatory.
With the additions to the WHS Regulation 2017 that came into effect on October 1, 2022, a PCBU also needs to consult on non-physical hazards and risks to workers that may exist in the workplace and these come under the classification of psychosocial hazards and risks. (ref WHS Regulation, Clauses 55a-55d.)
The PCBU can consult in one or more of three ways:
Consult with workers directly, i.e. one-on-one, or through toolbox talks and scheduled safety meetings. Any method whereby representatives of the PCBU (or the PCBU themselves if a sole trader) can talk to staff directly and hear what they have to say. (Ref Section 47 of the WHS Act.)
Have groups of workers represented by a health and safety representative and consult directly with the HSRs for each workgroup. (Ref Section 70 of the WHS Act.) This way is the default recommendation in the WHS Act for formalized consultation arrangements.
Use a health and safety committee whose function is to obtain and pass back up to the PCBU information the PCBU needs to be able to make final decisions on policies, procedures, rules, and control measures. (Ref Section 77 of the WHS Act.) This way might be more effective for small companies that don’t have workgroups established or for very large companies where the worker reps on the committee are also the HSRs.
In all cases the PCBU must first consult with its workforce. This includes other PCBUs, such as sub-contractors and landlords. (Ref. WHS Act, Section 46.)
Managing Psychosocial Hazards and Risks
In May 2021 a new Code of Practice was published by SafeWork NSW specifically to do with the management of psychosocial hazards and risks. The Code of Practice: Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work covers examples of psychosocial hazards and risks and specific actions that can be taken to manage those hazards and risks, should they be suspected to exist.
The Code of Practice gives a broad spectrum of work scenarios and suggestions that can be implemented to resolve psychosocial hazards and risks, from the more obvious such as the risk of physical or mental harm from unstable or violent customers, or bullying in the workplace, to more subtle risks such as the mental effects on staff from poor management and toxic workplace culture.
In all instances consultation is the key to bringing WHS matters to light and proposing solutions that benefit all. When workplace risks are managed, and these include psychosocial risks, then productivity increases. A happy work environment is a work environment without risks of harm to the workers.