Psychological Health and Safety

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Psychological Health & Safety, mental health in the workplace, lone worker mental health, lone worker psychological health and safety, psychological safety and mental health legislation

Changes to Work Health & Safety Laws in Australia

In 2021, New South Wales introduced a Code of Practice on managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work, which paved the way for Safe Work Australia to publish amendments to model WHS Laws in June 2022. This amendment detailed the importance of employers implementing controls and managing psychosocial risks to employees.

In April 2023, new Work Health and Safety Laws officially came into effect in commonwealth jurisdictions that prescribe how employers must approach, identify and manage hazards and risks to their employee’s psychological health and safety. This article will explore the changes to WHS Laws with regard to Psychological Health & Safety. 

What caused this change to WHS Laws?

A review conducted in 2017-2018 found that psychological health was neglected in the model WHS Regulations and Codes of Practice. As a result, Safe Work Australia updated the model WHS Regulations in July 2022 to incorporate recommendations regarding psychosocial risks in the workplace. They also published a new model Code of Practice titled “Managing psychosocial hazards at work,” providing guidance on identifying, managing, and controlling such hazards.

Each Australian state has adopted its own version of the Code of Practice, incorporating the changes made by Safe Work Australia. If an approved code of practice exists, businesses must either comply with it or manage hazards and risks in a way that provides an equivalent or higher standard of health and safety. The Codes of Practice serve as practical guidance tools and can be used as evidence in court proceedings.

Check with your WHS regulator to confirm if this Code of Practice is legally recognised in your jurisdiction.

Did you know? According to research from Sentis, 66% of employees rate work as a neutral or negative impact on their lives.

What are psychosocial hazards in the workplace?

Safe Work Australia defines Psychosocial Hazards as anything that could cause psychological harm to someone.

This could include the following hazards:

  • 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, and
  • conflict or poor workplace relationships and interactions

Psychosocial hazards can combine and increase the overall risk. It is important to consider all hazards employees may face when managing psychosocial risks. As these hazards could cause ongoing stress and harm to the physical and mental health of employees if not identified and managed correctly.

Managing psychological health and safety

It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure the well-being of workers by safeguarding them from the potential harm caused by work-related stress. As workers may encounter various psychosocial hazards, some of which are persistent while others are irregular, employers should have a comprehensive understanding of these risks and implement effective controls.

Employers should aim to regularly assess psychosocial hazards through the following actions:

  • Examining work systems and management practices to identify areas that may contribute to stress and hazards.
  • Engaging in one-on-one discussions with workers to understand their experiences, concerns, and any potential stressors they may be facing.
  • Analysing past incidents to identify patterns and take proactive measures to prevent their recurrence, thereby minimising the risks associated with psychological health.

By actively monitoring and addressing psychosocial hazards, employers can create a healthier and safe work environment for their employees.

Studies from PwC and the International Labour Organisation have found that creating a mentally healthy workplace had an average ROI of between $2.30 - $5.80 for every dollar invested.

Can WorkSafe Guardian help manage psychosocial risks for lone workers?

With the new work health and safety laws introduced in Australia, it is essential to consider the impact of psychosocial hazards on lone workers. As per the updated WHS laws, psychosocial hazards can combine and pose ongoing risks to employees if proper controls are not in place.

Working alone exposes individuals to various psychosocial risks, including traumatic events, challenging physical environments, and incidents of violence and aggression. Employers must prioritise the safety and well-being of lone workers by implementing measures to address these hazards and ensure compliance with the WHS regulations.

Introducing a lone worker safety tool, such as WorkSafe Guardian could help relieve psychological pressure or stress an employee may be experiencing due to isolated or dangerous working conditions. The WorkSafe Guardian App includes various features such as a safety and medical alert button and welfare check-ins. An external 24/7 monitoring service manages alerts, ensuring employees have peace of mind knowing that help is available at all times. In the event of an emergency, such as an accident or a failed check-in during a lone working session, the app can help locate the employee and quickly provide assistance.

Encouraging lone workers to use the WorkSafe Guardian App daily allows employees to feel safe and secure in the workplace. Utilising lone worker apps, like the WorkSafe Guardian App, demonstrates a commitment to fulfilling an employer’s duty of care as well as meeting legislation requirements.

"If a person feels unsafe, it’s just as bad as them being unsafe. This app actually contributes to them feeling safer in the workplace."

Relationships Australia NSW trusts WorkSafe Guardian to keep their employees safe.

Find out more about keeping your lone workers safe with WorkSafe Guardian.

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