Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work

Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work

August 17, 2022 Uncategorized
Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work -

Safe Work Australia has recently published its model code of practice Managing psychosocial hazards at work.  Similar codes are already in operation in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, and it is envisaged that other states/territories will also adopt either the model code or something similar.

What are psychosocial hazards?

Psychosocial hazards are hazards that may cause psychological and physical harm and include hazards that:

  • arise from or in relation to:
    • the design or management of work
    • the working environment and equipment
    • workplace interactions or behaviours; and
  • may cause psychological and physical harm.

Psychosocial hazards and the appropriate control measures may vary between workplaces and between groups of workers, depending on the work environment, organisational context and the nature of work.  Examples of psychosocial hazards that may arise at work include:

  • job demands
  • low job control
  • poor support
  • lack of role clarity
  • poor organisational change management
  • inadequate reward and recognition
  • poor organisational justice
  • traumatic events or material
  • remote or isolated work
  • poor physical environment
  • violence and aggression
  • bullying
  • harassment including sexual harassment
  • conflict or poor workplace relationship and interactions

How do psychosocial hazards cause harm?

Psychosocial hazards can create stress.  Stress is the body’s reaction when a worker perceives the demands of their work exceed their ability or resources to cope. 

Stress itself is not an injury but if it becomes frequent, prolonged or severe it can cause psychological and physical harm.

Psychological harm or injuries from psychosocial hazards include conditions such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sleep disorders.

Physical injuries from psychosocial hazards include musculoskeletal injury, chronic disease, and physical injury following fatigue-related workplace incidents.

What is an employer’s duty?

A PCBU must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, workers and other persons are not exposed to risks to their psychological or physical health and safety. A PCBU must eliminate psychosocial risks in the workplace, or if that is not reasonably practicable, minimise these risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

What should an employer do now?

Even if your jurisdiction has not adopted the new model code, it is important for your business to review the code and determine whether you have implemented reasonably practicable controls, as set out in the code.

The Code sets out 4 steps an employer should undertake to manage psychosocial hazards at work:

  1. Identify the psychosocial hazard
  2. Assess and prioritise the psychosocial hazards and risks
  3. Control psychosocial hazards and risks
  4. Proactively implement, maintain, monitor and review the effectiveness of controls

Further information

Further information on the model code can be found here Code of Practice

If you would like assistance with creating or updating your WHS and HR policies to ensure the business has frameworks in place to manage psychosocial hazards , please contact HR On Demand:

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