Managing the risk of psychosocial hazards in NSW workplaces

Managing the risk of psychosocial hazards in NSW workplaces

The New South Wales Government introduced a safety Code of Practice, Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work Code of Practice, which commenced on the date of the gazettal being 29 May 2021. A similar Code of Practice has recently been introduced by the Queensland government, effective from 1 April 2023.

The Code is designed as a practical guide for employers to manage psychosocial workplace hazards, including psychological and physical harm.

The Code identifies that psychosocial hazards most commonly originate from a number of factors, including:

  • The way workplace tasks are designed, organised, managed and supervised;
  • Tasks or jobs where there are inherent psychosocial hazards and risks;
  • The equipment provided, working environments, or requirements to undertake duties in physically hazardous environments; and
  • Social factors at work, workplace relationships, and social interactions.

The Code identifies a range of common psychosocial hazards, including:

  • High workloads or job demands;
  • Low workloads or job demands;
  • Exposure to traumatic events;
  • Role conflict or lack of clarity;
  • Low job control;
  • Conflict or poor workplace relationships between workers, supervisors or co-workers;
  • Poor support from supervisors and managers;
  • Workplace violence;
  • Bullying;
  • Harassment;
  • Hazardous physical working environments;
  • Remote or isolated work;
  • Poor processes for making decisions; and
  • Poor organisational change consultation.

The consequences of failing to manage psychological hazards are likely to include increases in workers’ compensation claims, higher rates of absenteeism, and declining morale in the workforce.

The Code imposes a duty on persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to do what is reasonably practicable to eliminate or minimise risks to psychological health and safety.

This can be achieved using a four-step risk management process:

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

It has been found that controlling psychological hazards are likely to be most successful when there is visible organisational and management commitment, worker involvement, and organisational communication and consultation regarding the risk management process.

The Code covers employers, workers, contractors, subcontractors, outworkers, self-employed, apprentices and trainees, work experience students, and volunteers.

They also cover other people who may enter a workplace, including customers and visitors.

Code of practice – Managing psychosocial hazards at work (nsw.gov.au)

For queries about Codes of Practice, safety, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 0417 622 178, 1300 WAL LAW or via email to dean.cameron@workforceadvisory.com.au

Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

Ref: 337.0523

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