Published March 2023
Psychosocial hazards can exist in every workplace, therefore it is important to manage both psychosocial hazards and physical risks as they are equally important. The new “Managing the risk of psychosocial hazards at work Code of Practice” ( the Code) is a practical guide on how to prevent harm from psychosocial hazards at work, including psychological and physical harm. The Code takes effect from 1 April 2023.
The Code is an approved code of practice under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act). The psychosocial hazard regulations (the Regulations) will give more specific detail about how duties under the WHS Act must be performed.
The Code and Regulations both commence on 1st of April 2023 and apply to all work and workplaces in Queensland, covered by the WHS Act. The Code and Regulations cover employers, workers, contractors, subcontractors, outworkers, the self-employed, apprentices and trainees, work experience students, and volunteers.
The Code and Regulations do not apply to some Queensland workplaces in the mining and resources industries, and Commonwealth government departments and Australian Public Service agencies.
The WHS Act defines “health” which includes a physical and psychological health definitions. The Regulations define important terms, such as ‘psychosocial hazard’, ‘psychosocial risk’, and clarify what matters businesses should consider when implementing ways to manage psychosocial risks.
The regulations will assist the WHS Regulator by providing a clearer framework for compliance action. Enforcement action using the Code and Amendment Regulation specifically will also come into effect on the 1st of April 2023.
What are psychosocial hazards?
Psychosocial hazards are anything at work that may cause psychological or physical harm. For example, this could come from a number of factors such as:
- the way that tasks or jobs are designed ( i.e. low role clarity, poor support, high job demands), managed and supervised ( poor practices and conditions;
- poor work relationships or social interactions;
- poor environmental conditions;
- bullying, harassment, traumatic events etc.
What does the Code and Regulations update mean for Employers?
Employers have to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety ( physical and psychological) of each worker while at work. This means that employers must ensure that psychosocial hazards at work are effectively managed.
The employer’s duty to employees includes ensuring the health and safety of workers from harmful acts from third parties, such as clients, visitors, or patients.
What do employers need to do to comply?
Employers must adopt a risk management process to eliminate psychosocial risks, so far as is reasonably practicable, but if not possible to eliminate them, then minimise them.
There is a four-step risk management process that employers should follow to meet their health and safety obligations under the Code and Regulations:
- Identify psychosocial hazards;
- Assess the risk;
- Control the risks;
- Review the controls.
It is very important to ensure there is consultation with employees throughout this process.
What do employers need to do to comply?
- Take a proactive approach and seek advice about your obligations if you are unsure.
- When an employee makes a complaint, the employer should: act immediately, ensure immediate safety, treat all matters seriously, maintain confidentiality, remain neutral, support everyone, do not victimise, communicate process and outcomes maintaining confidentiality where applicable, keep records, and
What happens if you do not comply?
WHSQ is Queensland’s work health and safety regulator. WHSQ works with industry, businesses, and workers to create a safe and healthy culture in Queensland places of work.
WHSQ inspectors ensure there is compliance with the health and safety laws. Note that legal action can take place when health and safety laws are broken.
Next steps for employers
Psychological hazards can lead to work related stress, loss of productivity, psychological and physical injuries, poor workplace culture and low morale. The right mechanisms such as policies, procedures, work standards, transparent processes (such as when conducting investigations), leadership and employee training can demonstrate you have taken practicable steps to eliminate/minimise psychosocial risks. Please reach out if you need any help with compliance.
For more guidance about this update, or to find out how Edwards HR can support your business, contact our team today on 07 3568 0866.
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