Monday 27 November 2023
On 25 August 2023 the Government published new regulations known as the Work Health and Safety (Psychosocial Risks) Amendment Regulations of 2023.
It is fair to say that the regulations have been a long time coming and follow much community debate following on from the Boland Review published in 2018 and the Respect@Work:Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report in 2020.
Preceding these reviews, it must be noted that all States and Territories in Australia (with the exception of Victoria) adopted the model Work Health and Safety Act and the Work Health and Safety Regulations.
In reviewing the legislation, the Boland Review noted that while the term “health” includes both physical and psychological health risks, and while a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure as far as reasonably practicable ensure a safe system of work and environment for workers’ and other persons in the workplace, it did not provide sufficient guidance as to how to address psychological hazards in and associated with the workplace.
The Boland Review therefore recommend some key definition changes in the legislation that included definitions of psychological hazard and psychological risk and to provide a guideline as to how to manage the risks.
The Government has now published the Regulations in Government Gazette of 25 August 2023.
Psychosocial hazards are defined as a hazard that may cause psychological harm and arise either from to relates to:
- The design or management of work,
- A work environment
- Plant at a workplace
- Workplace interactions or behaviors (whether or not it may also cause physical harm).
Examples can range from excessive workload demands, poor support, poor organisation change management, poor organisation justice, exposure to traumatic events and material, lack of role clarity and a culture that does not eliminate bullying, harassment, and sexual discrimination in the workplace just to name a few.
The onus will lie on the PCBU to therefore identify the psychosocial hazards in the workplace and by way of a risk analysis and show that all reasonable practicable steps have been taken to provide a safe system of work under section 18 of the Work Health and Safety Act.
The risk management process will require the PCBU to:
- Identify the risks and cause of any psychological injuries,
- An assessment of those risks
- A review of appropriate measures needed to control the risks, and
- A regular review process of the control measures.
While not fully spelt out in the legislation, in noting similar jurisdictions interstate, employer will be required to conduct regular consultations with employees and if required regular one on one discussions with workers. Workers will also be required to be proactive and report any psychosocial issues, provide feedback on consultation and request training that may be required. They will be required to not participate in any toxic workplace relations.
No doubt any prosecutions of such cases by SafeworkSA will provide further insight into the obligations confronting employers.
The new regulations will come into effect in 25 December 2023.