Know Your Psychosocial Hazards at Work

Weekly WHS Article 2nd May 2022

As you know, the WHS Act and WHS Regulation covers what must be done to achieve a safe and healthy workplace. The WHS Act defines ‘health’ as; “health means physical and psychological health”. So, any workplace situation that is damaging, or could damage psychological health in the workplace, has to be handled and cannot be ignored.


What is a psychosocial hazard?

The answer is on page 6 of the SafeWork NSW Code of Practice, Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work.


“Psychosocial hazards at work are aspects of work and situations that may cause a stress response which in turn can lead to psychological or physical harm. These stem from:

  • the way the tasks or job are designed, organised, managed and supervised

  • tasks or jobs where there are inherent psychosocial hazards and risks

  • the equipment, working environment or requirements to undertake duties in physically hazardous environments, and

  • social factors at work, workplace relationships and social interactions.”

“Some hazards by themselves have the potential to cause serious harm, such as experiencing occupational violence. In most circumstances, hazards will not occur alone but together with a range of psychosocial and physical hazards. As part of the risk assessment process the frequency and duration of exposure to psychosocial hazards will need to be considered. The more psychosocial hazards that are present, the more likely there is for harm to occur.”

Examples of Common Psychosocial Hazards

The 4 examples below and another 12 examples can be found in Table 1 on pages 7-8 of the SafeWork NSW Code of Practice, Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work. The table of 16 examples is a good tool to use when checking your workplace for psychological hazards.

1. “Role Overload (high workloads or job demands)

For example, where there is:

  • too much to do in a set time or with insufficient workers or other resources

  • unachievable task deadlines, expectations or responsibilities

  • unpredictable shifts or hours of work, shift structures or rosters that do not allow adequate time for workers to recover

  • frequent cognitively difficult work

  • multiple tasks that require repeated rapid switching between each to complete them, so it is difficult to concentrate

  • where there is sustained or frequent exposure to emotionally distressing situations

  • tasks that require workers to continually show false displays of emotion, e.g. customer service roles

  • tasks and decisions that are safety critical and that may have a serious impact on the health and safety of workers and others”

2. “Poor support from supervisors and managers

For example, where there is:

  • inadequate information, advice and help with work tasks or to resolve issues, or access to necessary equipment and resources

  • performance feedback or other management action which is unreasonable or delivered in an unreasonable manner. See also clarification on reasonable management action on page 9.”

3.”Bullying

Including, by workers, clients, patients, visitors or others. For example, see Safe Work Australia Guide: Preventing workplace violence and aggression; and Workplace violence and aggression – guidance for small business, and Workplace violence and aggression – advice for workers.”

4. “Harassment including sexual harassment

Single or repeated incidents of forms of harassment by co-workers, clients, patients, visitors or others around a person’s race, religion, gender, age, disability etc. For example, see information from Safe Work Australia: Guide: Preventing workplace sexual harassment and Preventing workplace sexual harassment - guidance for small business and Workplace sexual harassment – advice for workers.”


WHS Consultation about Psychosocial Hazards


A PCBU must consult with workers about any psychosocial hazards in their workplace (see section 47 NSW WHS Act), because it is a health matter.


Risk Management of Psychosocial Hazards


A PCBU must eliminate or minimise psychosocial risks so far as is reasonably practicable.


Psychosocial hazards have to be handled; hazards identified, risks assessed, and risks eliminated or minimised so far as is reasonably practicable (see section 17 NSW WHS Act).

Courtenell WHS articles will be released in the near future that provide more details on how to succeed at identifying psychosocial hazards, WHS consultation about that, and risk management of psychosocial hazards in your workplace.


Know Your Psychosocial Hazards at Work
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2nd May 2022

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