In brief - Section 4 of the Work Health and Safety (Psychosocial Risks) Amendment Regulation 2022, introduces new sections, 55A and 55B to the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (WHS Regulation) (in force from 1 April 2023) that requires employers to identify reasonably foreseeable psychosocial hazards in the workplace.
What is a psychosocial hazard?
A psychosocial hazard is a hazard that arises from, or relates to, the design or management of work, a work environment, plant at a workplace, or workplace interactions and behaviours and may cause psychological harm, whether or not the hazard may also cause physical harm.
When a worker is exposed to a psychosocial hazard, they might experience a frequent, prolonged and/or severe stress response, which causes harm or injury.
Some hazards are constant. Others might arise in particular circumstances. Common psychosocial hazards, as outlined on page 6 of the Managing the Risk of Psychosocial Hazards Code of Practice (Code of Practice), include but are not limited to:
- high or low job demands;
- poor support;
- low reward and recognition;
- remote or isolated work;
- traumatic events; and
- bullying or harassment.
How can you identify a psychosocial hazard in the workplace?
It is a requirement under the new section 55C of the WHS Regulation (as noted in the WHS Psychosocial Amendment Regulation), for employers to manage psychosocial risks. To effectively manage psychosocial risks, an employer must be able to identify reasonably foreseeable psychosocial hazards that give risks to health and safety. A list of examples of psychosocial hazards can be found at pages 50 to 62 of the Code of Practice.
Employers seeking to identify psychosocial hazards in their workplace might use any combination of methods including observing the workplace, consulting workers and relevant stakeholders, or collecting and reviewing available data. Depending on the circumstances, this may need to be undertaken at an organisational level or in role-specific cases.
This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2023.