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Managing psychosocial risks at work

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) in NSW has additional work health and safety responsibilities in relation to managing psychosocial risks in the workplace.

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) in NSW has additional work health and safety responsibilities in relation to managing psychosocial risks in the workplace.

What is a ‘Psychosocial Risk’?

“Psychosocial risks” are defined as risks caused by hazards which:

  • May cause psychological harm (whether or not they may also cause physical harm); and
  • Arise from or relate to:
    • the design or management of work;
    • a work environment;
    • plant at a workplace; or
    • workplace instructions or behaviours.

Common psychosocial hazards at work include:

How does this impact me?

PCBUs must as with any other Work Health and Safety (WHS) duty:

  • Implement control measures to eliminate psychosocial risks so far as is reasonably practicable; and
  • If elimination is not reasonably practicable, implement control measures to minimise the risk so far as is reasonably practicable.

It is not enough for PCBUs to have a workplace policy on mental health, or to only take action in response to psychosocial injuries after they occur, the changes require a more proactive approach to the identification and management of mental health risks in the workplace.

Controlling psychosocial risk – what should I do?

When deciding what control measures to implement, a PCBU must consider all relevant matters, such as:

  • the duration, frequency and severity of the exposure of workers and other persons to the psychosocial hazards; and
  • how the psychosocial hazards may interact or combine; and
  • the design of work, including how work is managed, organised and supported; and
  • the systems of work, including how work is managed, organised and supported; and
  • the design and layout, and environmental conditions, of the workplace, including the provision of:
    • safe means of entering and exiting the workplace, and
    • facilities for the welfare of workers, and
  • the plant, substances and structures at the workplace; and
  • workplace interactions or behaviours; and
  • the information, training, instruction and supervision provided to workers.

For further information on control measures, you can access the Code of Practice: Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work which identifies psychosocial hazards, amongst other things consideration of social factors at work, workplace relationships and social interactions that may cause psychological stress. The Code also emphasises that persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) and other duty holders have the responsibility to manage these psychosocial hazards at work.

How can I comply with this new requirement?

Businesses who already have detailed WHS policies and procedures are on the right track. However, all businesses should update their policies to specifically address mental health or psychosocial risk.

PCBUs should conduct a risk assessment of the workplace and review whether their current risk control measures are adequate to control psychosocial hazards.

PCBUs may also need to undertake courses to be better equipped and have capacity to deal with such sensitive matters.

Failure to comply may be a breach of the primary duty of care which can carry significant penalties.

Resources to assist with compliance

SafeWork NSW has prepared information and tools to help PCBUs understand and implement the requirements of this new duty:

  • Workplace Pulse – A 11 question checklist assessing the mental health status of your workplace.
  • People at Work – A tool that aids in answering the question ‘What risks are impacting mental health in your workplace?’
  • Workplace Wellbeing Assessment – Measures capability to provide a mentally healthy workplace.
  • Tailored Construction Mental Health Resources – construction industry specific information and resources to effectively assess, manage and control mental health in construction.
  • Safe Work Australia’s Work-related psychological health and safety – National guidance material - Outline of specific information and examples of:
    • How PCBUs should use the existing WHS duty to consult workers to identify psychosocial risks;
    • Examples of the type of risks that a PCBU might identify (e.g. highly repetitive or monotonous tasks), and examples of methods of minimising or eliminating these risks (e.g. providing workers with control over their work pace and allowing them to take breaks).

Further tools, resources, free coaching and training can be found on SafeWork’s Mental Health webpage and the NSW Government’s webpage.

HIA also provides a range of tools, resources, and services to help build mentally healthy environments.

To find out more, contact HIA's Contracts and Compliance team

Email us

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