Safe Work Australia has amended the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations and published a new model code of practice to make duties in relation to psychosocial hazards clearer and help duty holders comply with these duties.
The Australian government statutory agency’s new ‘model Code of Practice on Managing psychosocial hazards’ provides practical guidance on how to achieve the OSH standards required under the model WHS Act and the model WHS Regulations as well as effective measures to identify and manage the risks.
Published on 1 August, the model code of practice provides detailed information that includes how to identify psychosocial hazards; assess and control the risks; review control measures; record risk management processes and outcomes; and conduct work health and safety investigations.
Safe Work Australia CEO Michelle Baxter said that the person conducting a business or undertaking (or PCBU) had a ‘positive duty’ to do everything they reasonably could to prevent exposure to psychosocial hazards and risks.
‘Psychosocial hazards are anything at work that may cause psychological harm,’ she said.
‘They can come from the way work is designed and managed, the working environment, or behaviours including bullying, harassment, discrimination, aggression and violence.’
She added that work-related psychological injuries and illness had a significant negative impact on workers, their families and business.
‘On average, work-related psychological injuries have longer recovery times, higher costs, and require more time away from work when compared with physical injuries,’ she said.
Baxter explained that workers’ compensation claims for psychological injury and illness had increased and employers had to absorb higher costs as a result of employees being off work and covering compensation costs.
‘Managing psychosocial risks protects workers, decreases staff turnover and absenteeism, and may improve broader organisational performance and productivity,’ she said.
The model code of practice must be approved under s 274 of the WHS Act in each individual jurisdiction, including the Commonwealth, states and territories, before the code has legal standing in that jurisdiction. PCBUs have a legal duty to eliminate or minimise psychosocial risks so far is reasonably practicable and can use the model code for information on how this duty can be met.
The model WHS Regulations and model code of practice were developed through Australia’s tripartite process and was informed by Commonwealth, state and territory governments as well as employer and worker representatives.