Over approximately the last 12 to 18 months, there has been a wave of new safety requirements implemented in most of the states and territories in Australia. These safety requirements have been implemented to ensure that any person conducting a business or undertaking are taking the appropriate active steps to commence this new risk-based process for psychosocial hazards, which includes bullying, harassment and sexual harassment (psychological and physical harm) 

The new Code of Practice, ‘Managing the Risk of Psychosocial Hazards at Work 2022’ has been implemented in the states and territories as follows: 

  • Commonwealth – commenced April 2022;  
  • New South Wales – commenced 1 October 2022; 
  • Western Australia – commenced January 2023; 
  • Tasmania – commenced 4 January 2023; 
  • Queensland – commenced 1 April 2023; 
  • Northern Territory – commenced 1 July 2023.  

In October 2022, WorkSafe Victoria published articles that advised all employers to identify and manage psychosocial hazards in their workplaces and are utilising their already existing safety laws to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace.

What is a Psychosocial Hazard? 

Psychosocial hazards are anything in the design and/or management of a workplace that increases the risk of psychological or physical harm. The new Code of Practice provides that a psychosocial hazard can be: 

  • High and/or low job demands; 
  • Challenging work hours, shift work or working fly in fly out for many years; 
  • Low job control; 
  • Poor support; 
  • Low role clarity; 
  • Poor organisational change management (i.e. management change that is poorly planned, communicated, support or managed); 
  • Low rewards and recognition; 
  • Poor organisational justice (i.e. lack of procedural fairness, informational fairness, or interpersonal fairness); 
  • Poor workplace relationships including interpersonal conflict; 
  • Remote or isolated work; 
  • Poor environment conditions; 
  • Traumatic events; 
  • Violence and aggression; 
  • Bullying; 
  • Harassment including sexual harassment; and 
  • Fatigue.  

Duty of workplaces to manage psychosocial hazards

Any person conducting a business or undertaking is required to conduct a risk assessment to identify and manage the psychosocial hazards and risks in their business.  

The new Code of Practice recommends that the following steps be taken by any persons conducting a business or undertaking:  

  • Communicate and consult with your workforce regarding the below process; 
  • Conduct a risk assessment, which will consider any past psychosocial claims, bullying and harassment investigations, worker exit interviews and current appropriate workplace behaviour policies to determine the reasonably practicable control measures suitable for your business and industry; 
  • Review and refresh bullying and harassment and sexual harassment policies; 
  • Retrain all workers, contractors and other persons in the updated appropriate behaviour policies; and 
  • Review and update the policies and training in twelve months’ time. 

If a business operates across different state borders, the Workplace Health and Safety Regulation and the new Code of Practice in each of the states should be reviewed by the workplace, and the highest standard of practical control measures should be set.  

If a person conducting a business or undertaking does not take the above steps, they are at risk of facing criminal charges should a person suffer a psychosocial hazard in their workplace. 

Emily Wright and our team are specialist personal injury lawyers who can assist you with your claim on a ‘No Win No Fee’ basis. If you would like advice in relation to a personal injury claim, including a medical negligence claim, please reach out to Emily Wright and Littles Lawyers today. 

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