Effective Consultation about Psychosocial Hazards & Risks
Weekly WHS Article 15th June 2023
WHS law in NSW requires that PCBUs consult with their workers on matters relating to health and safety in the workplace. Consulting with the workforce is mandatory.
That includes non-physical hazards and risks to workers that may exist in the workplace and these come under the classification of psychosocial hazards and risks. (see WHS Regulation, Clauses 55a-55d.)
In all cases the PCBU must consult with its workforce and other PCBUs, such as sub-contractors and landlords. (see WHS Act, Section 46.)
Consultation is the key to bringing WHS matters to light and proposing solutions that benefit all. When workplace risks are managed, and these particularly include psychosocial risks, then productivity increases. A happy work environment is a work environment without risks of harm to the workers.
The PCBU can consult in one or more of three ways:
Consult with workers directly, i.e. one-on-one, or through toolbox talks, scheduled safety meetings, and psychosocial surveys. 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. (see 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. (see 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. (see 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.
The SafeWork NSW Code of Practice: Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work
This Code 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. It 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.
Should HSRs be trained on psychosocial hazards & risks?
The answer is yes. The SafeWork NSW Code of Practice, Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work, at page 11 states that;
“A HSR should:
undertake training on psychosocial hazards and risks, their duties and risk management, and
talk to workers they are representing about any psychosocial hazards and work-related risks and monitor actions taken to address concerns, and
raise concerns about psychosocial hazards and risks in relevant meetings with the PCBU and provide feedback to the affected workers whilst protecting privacy and confidentiality where required.”
What about Managers, Supervisors and Health & Safety Committee members?
Although less common in workplaces these days, some workplaces do not have work groups and HSRs so PCBUs use their Managers or Supervisors or Health & Safety Committee members to represent them in consulting workers about WHS matters that concern them and pass those concerns on to the PCBU and feedback to the workers. That includes psychosocial hazards and risks. It follows that those Managers, Supervisors and Health & Safety Committee members should also be trained in psychosocial hazards and risks.
© the Department of Customer Service, State of New South Wales is the owner of the copyright of the code of practice that is quoted above. This publication is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence. For more information, visit www.nsw.gov.au/copyright.
15th June 2023
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