LATEST UPDATE - New regulation and code of practice
The model work health and safety (WHS) laws now include regulations on psychosocial hazards. In January, Tasmania introduced a new Code of Practice for managing psychosocial hazards in the workplace. The implementation of this code follows Safe Work Australia's amendments to the model WHS regulations in 2023, which sought to rectify the lack of regulation around psychosocial risks in the workplace.
The new Code of Practice serves to clarify existing legal duties to manage both physical and psychological hazards. It explicitly sets out the legal requirements for workplaces to prevent psychosocial hazards from occurring and to effectively manage them when they do occur.
What are psychosocial hazards and what are your responsibilities?
Managing both physical and psychological hazards in the workplace has always been a requirement under work health and safety laws. The recent regulations serve to clarify and reinforce these existing duties by clearly outlining the legal requirements for workplaces to prevent and manage psychosocial hazards.
Psychosocial hazards and factors can be anything that relates to the characteristics of the work, such as job design or management, or the working environment, (including equipment used) that increases the risk of psychological harm. These hazards can include things like excessive workload, lack of control over one's work, poor support from colleagues or supervisors or remote or isolated work.
Psychosocial hazards may also take the form of harmful behaviours, such as violence and aggression, bullying, harassment, (including sexual or gender based harassment) and conflict or poor workplace relationships and interactions.
In most circumstances, it will be a combination of psychosocial hazards which together may cause harm. And, just like physical health and safety risks, it is essential to manage psychological health risks from psychosocial hazards in the workplace.
Psychosocial hazards can create stress. Stress itself is not an injury. But if workers are stressed often, over a long time, or the level of stress is high, it can cause psychological or physical harm.
Effectively managing psychosocial risks not only protects workers but it also decreases staff turnover and absenteeism and may improve overall organizational performance and productivity. It’s important for workplaces to take a proactive approach in identifying, assessing, and mitigating psychosocial hazards to create a safe and healthy work environment for all employees.
- WorkSafe Tasmania's Managing psychosocial hazards at work code of practice page
- Safework Australia https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/safety-topic/managing-health-and-safety/mental-health/psychosocial-hazards
- People at work https://www.peopleatwork.gov.au/
- Head4Work https://head4work.com.au/