There are new regulations under the South Australian Work Health and Safety Act 2012 to help workers and Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (‘PCBU’) manage the risk of psychosocial injuries and illnesses in the workplace. These changes came into effect on 25 December 2023. The new regulations mean that PCBUs are now legally obligated to ensure the psychosocial safety of their workers. The WHS Amendment Regulations will be supported by the Code of Practice – Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work
Whilst PCBUs already have a primary duty of care to ensure the health & safety of workers and others both physically and psychologically, an independent review of Australia’s model work health and safety laws in 2018, recommended PCBUs needed more information on how to manage psychosocial hazards due to the lack of codes and or regulations.
It is recognised that psychological injury has a significant impact on worker health and business productivity. According to Safe Work Australia, Mental health conditions accounted for 9 per cent of all serious workers’ compensation claims in 2020-21, a 55.6 per cent increase since 2016-17.
Staying across the changes can be difficult and challenging to navigate. The following provides guidance on what these new psychosocial laws mean for PCBUs, how it affects workers, and what PCBUs can do to be confident they are complying with these changes.
What is a psychosocial hazard?
Psychosocial hazards are aspects of work that have the potential to cause psychological or physical harm. Every workplace has a unique set of potential psychosocial hazards but common hazards, as identified by Safe Work Australia, include:
- Excessive 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 and harassment
- Conflict or poor workplace relationships and interactions
More detailed examples can be found on the SafeWork SA website SafeWork SA Psychosocial Risk Assessment. You can access a brief video that explains the hazards in more detail here SafeWork SA Psychosocial video
How do the new regulations affect your workplace?
Australian businesses now have a legal duty to manage the risk of psychosocial hazards in their workplace. This includes any hazards from third parties’ harmful acts, including clients, visitors, and customers.
Organisations will be penalised for failing to manage psychosocial hazards. The penalty may include prosecution and fines.
The benefits of managing psychosocial hazards:
- Increase employee productivity
- Decrease absenteeism
- Improve physical wellness of employees
- Improve employee engagement
What to do?
To meet this new obligation, organisations are expected to eliminate or reduce as low as reasonably practicable, psychosocial risks using the same risk management process you would use for physical risks.
- Develop a Psychosocial Safety Policy – Businesses should develop or integrate into their current WHS System, a policy that outlines their commitment to psychosocial safety and the measures they will take to ensure their employees’ psychological health and wellbeing.
- Identify hazards and assess risks – Conduct a psychosocial risk assessment to find out what can cause harm at your business. SafeWork SA have a useful risk assessment tool with more details and examples of psychosocial risks SafeWork SA Psychosocial Risk Assessment Tool
- Control risks – Strive to reduce the risk and ensure the control measures remain effective over time.
Review control measures – Check in to ensure control measures work as planned. Make changes as necessary.
SafeWork SA have many resources for PCBUs including this Psychological Health Safety Checklist
Safe Work Australia have Work-related psychological health & safety – National guidance material
What is a Code of Practice on Psychosocial Hazards at Work?
A Code of Practice is a practical guide that provides guidance on how to manage health and safety risks associated with psychosocial hazards at work.
What may happen to a PCBU who fails to comply with their duty to manage psychosocial hazards?
- Criminal charges
- Workers’ Compensation Claims
- Civil penalties
What are the consequences if a PCBU does nothing to manage psychosocial hazards?
- Increased safety risks, workplace accidents and injuries.
- Reduced productivity: Increased sick leave and lower productivity when they are at work.
- Increased turnover: Workers are more likely to leave their jobs.
- Reputational/brand damage: More difficult to attract and retain top talent.
- Reduction in business profitability.
- Increased legal liability: Businesses that fail to adequately manage psychosocial hazards may be held liable for any resulting harm caused to employees.
- Psychosocial safety is no longer a “nice to have”. Business must be proactive in identifying, assessing, and controlling the risks.
- Managing psychosocial hazards at work not only protects workers, but it also benefits business by improving organisational performance and productivity.
- We recommend that PCBUs carefully consider the Code of Practice – Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work and the Work Health Safety Regulations 2012 (as amended) and assess how psychosocial risks can be managed within their business.
PeopleVision assists workplaces to assess how their current management system aligns with the new psychosocial requirements, define what gaps exist, and provide an improvement plan for implementation.
For further information, call us on +61 8 352 5415 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org