On 6 June 2022, Safe Work Australia made amendments to the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws to:
- define psychosocial hazard and psychosocial risk; and
- oblige a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to manage psychosocial risks (i.e. identify hazards, eliminate or minimise risks so far as is reasonably practicable, maintain and review control measures).
The model WHS Regulations defines psychosocial hazard as any hazard that:
- arises from, or relates to, the design or management of work, a work environment, plant at a workplace, or workplace interactions or behaviours; and
- may cause psychological harm (whether or not it may also cause physical harm).
Psychosocial risk means any risk to the health or safety of a worker or other person arising from a psychosocial hazard.
In determining what the control measures are reasonably practicable to eliminate or minimise the risk, PCBUs must consider all relevant factors, including:
- the duration, frequency and severity of the exposure to the psychosocial hazards;
- how the psychosocial hazards may interact or combine;
- the design and system of work designs, including job demands and tasks, and how work is managed, organised and supported;
- the design, layout and environmental conditions of the workplace and any accommodation provided by the PCBU;
- the plant, substances and structures at the workplace;
- workplace interactions or behaviours; and
- information, training, instruction and supervision provided to workers.
In Victoria, the proposed OHS Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations includes a definition of psychosocial risks and an express obligation to manage them, which is in line with the amendments to the model. Although the other jurisdictions do not have a similar statutory provision, their codes of practice and risk assessment tools provide guidance in similar terms.
The amendments to the model WHS laws increase the awareness of the importance of psychosocial risks in the workplace. Looking ahead, the Commonwealth and all states and territories still have a lot of work to do if they want to bring their laws into line with the new model. It is important to monitor whether each jurisdiction will adopt these amendments in the upcoming months.