In the past few years, there has been increased awareness regarding “psychosocial” risks in the workplace and why it is important to address these issues.
Psychosocial risks refer to factors in a workplace that can adversely effect employee’s mental health, well-being and their productivity.
In New South Wales, employers have a legal obligation to ensure that psychosocial risks are appropriately managed. Under this legal obligation, employers are also required to create a safe and healthy work environment to protect against psychosocial risks.
This article explores the legal framework regarding psychosocial risks in the workplace, sources of psychosocial risks, the importance of managing these risks and key strategies to assist you as an employer in addressing and managing psychosocial risk.
Legal Framework in NSW
The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) establishes the legal framework for managing psychosocial risks in the workplace.
Under the WHS Act, employers have a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of their employees and this duty includes addressing psychosocial risks.
To comply with this duty, employers must identify and assess these risks, implement control measures, and regularly review and monitor their effectiveness.
As a result of these obligations and the fact that they are relatively new, employers in NSW should familiarise themselves with the relevant legislation, guidelines, and resources to ensure compliance and effective management of psychosocial risks in the workplace.
For instance, SafeWork NSW provides guidelines and tools for risk assessment and management, including the “Guide for Managing the Risk of Psychosocial Hazards at Work” and the “Mentally Healthy Workplaces Toolkit.”
Sources of Psychosocial Risks
Psychosocial risks can arise from organisational factors, such as work design, workload, and job demands, as well as interpersonal factors, including workplace relationships, communication, and support systems.
The most common psychosocial risks include work-related stress, bullying and harassment, poor work-life balance, and lack of job control or autonomy.
The Importance of Managing Psychosocial Risks
Research suggests that managing psychosocial risks in the workplace is crucial for promoting employee well-being, productivity, and organisational success.
Poor mental health and well-being in the workplace can lead to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher staff turnover. It can also contribute to accidents, errors, and workplace conflicts, all of which impact overall organisational performance.
Failing to manage psychosocial risks can result in legal liabilities for employers, including claims related to negligence, breach of duty of care, and violations of anti-discrimination and workplace safety legislation.
Strategies for Managing Psychosocial Risks
By implementing strategies such as risk assessment, communication, work design, supportive environments, and training, employers can effectively manage psychosocial risks and contribute to a mentally healthy workplace.
Conducting a thorough risk assessment is a crucial first step in managing psychosocial risks. A risk assessment involves identifying potential hazards, evaluating the likelihood and severity of harm, and determining appropriate control measures. Risk assessments should be ongoing and consider the specific characteristics of the organisation and its workforce.
Effective communication and consultation with employees is also essential for managing psychosocial risks. Employers should engage with their workforce, seek their input, and actively listen to their concerns. Regular communication channels can include team meetings, employee surveys, suggestion boxes, and anonymous reporting mechanisms.
Psychosocial risk can also be reduced by ensuring that work is designed in a way that promotes employee well-being and job satisfaction. This includes providing employees with a reasonable level of control and autonomy over their work, minimising excessive workloads, and offering flexibility in work arrangements when possible.
Employers should also take steps to foster a supportive work environment that promotes positive relationships, respect, and inclusivity. This can involve promptly addressing issues such as bullying and harassment, providing training on mental health awareness, and promoting employee well-being initiatives, such as Employee Assistance Programs and access to counselling services.
The risks in any workplace can be reduced by recognising the importance of a work-life balance and supporting employees in managing their work and personal responsibilities. This can be done by providing flexible work arrangements, promoting breaks and rest periods, and encouraging employees to disconnect from work during non-working hours.
Finally, employers can ensure that they provide both managers and employees with training and education on psychosocial risks and mental health awareness. This helps increase awareness, reduces stigma, and equips individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to recognise and address psychosocial risks effectively.
Employers are responsible for creating safe working conditions for their employees.
While many employers are familiar with the need to ensure that their working conditions do not expose their workers to unreasonable physical risk, they may be less familiar with the need to reduce psychosocial risks.
By recognising psychosocial risks and implementing strategies to reduce or eliminate them, employers can greatly minimise the risk of harm to their employees in the workplace.
The information in this article is general in nature and does not constitute professional advice.