By Kelly Godfrey
Psychological injuries in NSW workplaces are increasing. In the past 5 years, more than 26,000 workers took time off work due to psychological workplace injuries. This resulted in 1.2 million lost work days at a cost of approximately $85,000 per injury. In comparison, over the same time period, the average physical injury cost approximately $21,000 per claim.
The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) (WHS Act) requires that persons conducting a business or undertaking ensure the psychological health and safety of workplace participants, so far as is reasonably practicable. Additionally, officers, workers and others in the workplace also have statutory obligations under the WHS Act to protect against psychological health risks.
The new draft WorkSafe NSW Code of Practice is designed to supplement the WHS Act protections. It contains a 4-step psychological risk management process, as outlined below.
While the Code is not mandatory, it provides guidance on the standards expected of you. In court proceedings, the Code can be used as evidence of the reasonably practicable measures available to control psychological risks in the workplace. As such, it is important to examine such codes and implement the guidelines in your workplace.
Once public comment about the Code is obtained, revisions will be made prior to the Code’s final release.
Steps to manage psychological risks
Step 1: Identify psychological hazards in the workplace
You must determine potential causes of psychological harm in the workplace, for example:
- the nature and type of work undertaken;
- the operating environment;
- work stressors;
- organisational structure and management;
- work duties;
- interpersonal relationships, interactions and behaviours;
- individual personal characteristics and attributes; and
- significant workplace changes.
Step 2: Assess risks to psychological health
You should perform a risk assessment to:
- determine the workers at the greatest risk of harm;
- determine the severity of the psychological risk;
- assess the effectiveness of current control measures;
- assist in the selection of additional control measures; and
- determine how urgently action is required.
Step 3: Control risks to psychological health
You must implement control measures to try to eliminate the risks to psychological health. If this is not possible, then you should implement controls to minimise the risks as far as reasonably practicable.
Step 4: Maintain, monitor and review controls
You must maintain, monitor and review your control measures to ensure they remain effective and adaptable.