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SafeWork NSW’s Focus on Psychosocial Safety, Respect at Work, & Harmful Substances

Weekly WHS Article 20th July 2023

SafeWork NSW is the overseer of workplace health and safety in New South Wales. As the state regulator it ensures that businesses are complying with their duties under WHS and industry-specific safety laws. They have a wealth of information on their website and advice is only a phone call away.

SafeWork NSW focuses on key WHS areas that have:

  • potential for serious harm or death

  • new or emerging issues

  • increases in frequency of an issue.

This article covers three key WHS areas that SafeWork NSW is focussed on.

Psychosocial Safety and Respect at Work

Psychological safety and Respect at Work are current key focus areas for SafeWork NSW Ref 1.

SafeWork’s focus includes reducing the prevalence of psychological injury at workplaces and the management of psychosocial hazards such as bullying, sexual harassment, and customer aggression in the workplace, particularly in male dominated sectors and healthcare.

The Code of Practice for psychosocial hazards and risks recommends training in psychosocial hazards and risks not only for PCBUs, supervisors and managers, but also for Health and Safety Representatives. HSRs represent workers in work groups that have been established for WHS consultation purposes. Sometimes the WHS issues that exist are non-physical hazards and risks. As with any risks to be managed the PCBU must consult all persons whom may be affected by a WHS risks, including those who may be affected by psychosocial hazards and risks.

A PCBU has the duty to manage any and all risks at the workplace. Amendments to the NSW WHS Regulation in 2022 extended a PCBU’s duty to eliminate or manage psychosocial hazards and risks in the same way as physical risks. A new Code of Practice was published in 2022 to help with this.

SafeWork NSW is establishing a Respect at Work Taskforce to deal with harmful workplace behaviour, particularly those that affect women and those that are sexual harassment Ref 2&3.

Also, a Council called the Respect@Work Council, brings together leaders from key Australian government regulators and policy makers responsible for sexual harassment policies and complaints to improve coordination, consistency and clarity across existing legal and regulatory frameworks. The core members include the Sex Discrimination Commissioner from the Australian Human Rights Commission, the General Manager of the Fair Work Commission, and the Chief Executive Officer of Safe Work Australia Ref 3. To find out more about the Respect@Work Council visit the Attorney General’s Department website Ref 4.

So psychosocial hazards and respect at work is a hot area for action.

Harmful Substances

Harmful substances is another area that SafeWork is focussed on. This is a natural outcome from the initiatives put forward earlier in 2023 to ban engineered stone products in response to rising rates of silicosis from dry-cutting silica products commonly used in kitchen and bathroom benches Ref 5. It was in February of this year the work health and safety ministers of all states and territories unanimously agreed to ask Safe Work Australia to prepare a plan to ban the products. 60 Minutes Australia ran a segment on the engineered stone industry revealing the dangers and risks from silica dust which in some cases cause cancer and death.

SafeWork NSW is dedicated to reducing the incidence of worker exposure to dangerous substances in the workplace with a current focus on crystalline silica and dangerous chemicals.

SafeWork NSW has a list of priority hazardous substances on their website, and pertinent information relating to each, including crystalline silica, that help businesses to manage and handle these substances Ref 6 & 7.

Courtenell offers training courses for both psychosocial hazards and risks as well as hazardous chemicals management. Call us and discuss your needs. If any of these subjects that are currently the focus of SafeWork NSW are subjects you would like to learn more about then feel free to contact us here at Courtenell to discuss training options that may be helpful for you.


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SafeWork NSW’s Focus on Psychosocial Safety, Respect at Work, & Harmful Substances
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20th July 2023

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