New Work Health and Safety Laws – Psychological Health and Safety

There’s a good reason why you’ve probably heard a lot lately about “psychological safety” and “psychosocial safety.”

The law has changed with respect to employer obligations under Work Health and Safety.

Our clients are telling us that they’re confused about this change, and what it means for them. In this article, we aim to cut through the confusion to explain employers’ obligations under the new rules, and importantly, give recommendations on what you can do to comply.

Firstly, you may have come across the terms “psychological” and “psychosocial”. They are frequently used interchangeably and in discussions about workplace safety, they effectively imply the same thing.

What defines a psychosocial hazard? Basically, it’s anything within the work environment that could harm someone’s mental health.  SafeWork Australia outlines quite a list of common psychosocial hazards in the workplace.

What You Need to Do

To meet your obligations, you must eliminate psychosocial risk, or if that’s not practical, you must minimise the risk as much as possible.

SafeWork Australia has developed a Model Code of Practice which outlines four steps:

  1. Identify hazards
  2. Assess risks
  3. Control risks
  4. Review control measures.

A great way to identify risks is through regular staff feedback mechanisms. For our clients that includes an annual engagement survey, onboarding surveys (during probation), exit surveys as well as pulse surveys throughout the year. Additionally, all team members are given direct access to our team to discuss any HR-related matter in a confidential environment.

WorkSafe QLD has an excellent Psychosocial Risk Assessment Tool that covers all four steps in the Model Code of Practice. We suggest you work through this tool in consultation with your employees, your HR advisor, and/or any other health and safety specialists.

In Conclusion

When it comes to recognising and managing psychosocial hazards, every business has work to do. Some companies might discover that after conducting a risk analysis, no dangers are found. This is fantastic, but you should keep an eye on it in case something changes.

Other businesses should consider control measures and take immediate action to address the hazards that may already be known to exist.

The key message is that, in order to lower the risk of workplace injuries, every business must now take into account psychological risks in addition to physical ones and manage them appropriately.