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Psychosocial Situations and Psychological Injuries

Weekly WHS Article 5th October 2023

SafeWork NSW’s Code of Practice: Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work, lists 14 common psychosocial hazards. These psychosocial hazards have a potential for causing psychological injuries such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression. A phenomenon called “quiet quitting” can be an outcome too for those who choose to suffer along.

In this article we consider 3 real life examples of common psychosocial hazards where the employee suffered psychological injuries.

1. High Court case – Kozarov v Victoria (2022) HCA 12

The injured employee (Kozarov) was a solicitor working in the Specialist Sexual Offences Unit at the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions. The work required interaction with alleged victims of sexual offences and the examination of explicit child pornography. The Court ruled that the Office of Public Prosecutions did not take reasonable care of Kozarov’s mental health and that caused the exacerbation and prolongation of the post-traumatic stress disorder and subsequent development of major depressive disorder. This case was instrumental in changing the WHS laws, leading to amendments made to the WHS Regulation 2017 in 2022.

2. Bersee v State of Victoria (Dept of Education and Training) (2022) VSCA 231

Bersee was a high school woodworking teacher with the Dept of Education and Training. He suffered major depressive disorder and chronic anxiety that was caused by unreasonable and excessive workloads required by his employer. The Court concluded that Dr Bersee’s injury was reasonably foreseeable when the class size was raised from 22 to 25.

3. Stevens v DP World Melbourne Ltd (2022) VSCA 285

Whilst employed as a stevedore, Stevens suffered mental health injury as result of ongoing bullying and harassment from other workers in his workplace. The Court of Appeal ruled that the employer’s policy recognised that workplace bullying may cause harm, including risks to health and safety and thus satisfied the reasonable and foreseeable risk of psychological injury requirement. The Court then sent the case back to the County Court for rehearing.

Work-related psychological injuries are a major concern for Australian workplaces. Seven in 10 workers across Australia (70%) say they experience stress at work at least once a week and around 25% feel stressed 4 or more times a week. Beyond Blue's report on workplace mental health shows 91% of workers viewing mental health as important in their everyday lives.

Moreover, the average cost of a workers compensation claim is $45,900 for mental health related incidents… 5 times the average cost of physical injury claims. The median time off work for a mental health compensation claim is 27 weeks, compared to 7 weeks for a serious physical claim.

One of the most simple and immediate strategies every business could implement to demonstrate a proactive approach in responding to the new legislation includes educating managers, supervisors, and employees on the range of psychosocial hazards that could exist in their workplace. Under the new laws PCBUs must manage non physical risks and hazards in the same way as physical hazards and risks.

Courtenell offers Management of Psychosocial Hazards training that provides workplace leaders with practical strategies to help prevent psychological issues from developing in the workplace. Our one-day training program takes the participants through a risk assessment process to identify and manage psychosocial hazards in their workplace. Participants will learn about the core principles of creating environments that protect, respond, and promote Psychosocial Safety at work. With customisable options, Management of Psychosocial Hazards training is relevant for businesses of all sizes and industries.

The course is offered face to face both onsite and as a public course, as well as virtual course via Zoom or MS Teams.

Get in touch to discuss how we can help you build better psychosocial safety at work.

Psychosocial Situations and Psychological Injuries
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5th October 2023

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