Reviewing psychosocial risks in NSW workplaces: recent changes to employer responsibilities

The importance of addressing psychosocial risks in the workplace has gained significant recognition in recent years.

These risks encompass a range of factors that can impact employees' psychosocial wellbeing, including work-related stress, bullying, harassment and violence. In New South Wales (NSW), employers have a legal and moral obligation to create a safe and healthy work environment. This article explores how employers can review psychosocial risks in their workplaces, focusing on recent WHS law changes and corresponding responsibilities.

The NSW WHS Regulation amendment has taken affect from October 2022. This amendment includes an explicit obligation for employers to:

  1. Identify and assess psychosocial risks associated with psychological injuries
  2. Applying appropriate control measures to manage psychosocial risks and reviewing the efficacy of those control measures.

Understanding psychosocial risks

To effectively review psychosocial risks, employers must first understand the nature and potential impact on employees. Psychosocial risks can arise from various sources, such as organisational culture, work demands, interpersonal relationships and job insecurity.

Recent changes in NSW legislation have recognised the significance of psychosocial risks and emphasized the need for proactive management to protect employees' mental health.

Conducting a comprehensive risk assessment

Employers should conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify and evaluate psychosocial hazards in the workplace. This assessment should involve engaging with employees, as they possess valuable insights into their own work experiences.

By using methods such as surveys, interviews, and observation, employers can identify potential risks and determine their severity. The recent changes in NSW legislation emphasize the importance of employee consultation in the risk assessment process.

Implementing controls and interventions

Based on the findings of the risk assessment, employers should develop and implement appropriate controls and interventions. These measures will vary depending on the needs of the organisation but should aim to eliminate psychosocial risks or minimise their impact.

Some examples include:

  • Clear policies and procedures: employers should establish policies and procedures that explicitly address psychosocial risks, including guidelines on preventing bullying and harassment, managing workloads and promoting work-life balance.
  • Training and education: providing employees with training and education on psychosocial risks can raise awareness, foster a culture of respect and equip employees with the skills to manage workplace stress effectively.
  • Supportive work environment: employers can promote a supportive work environment by encouraging open communication, providing access to support mechanisms (for example, employee assistance programs) and fostering positive interpersonal relationships.

Regular monitoring and reviewing

The process of reviewing psychosocial risks should be ongoing and adaptive. Employers must regularly monitor the effectiveness of implemented controls and interventions. This can involve gathering feedback from employees, conducting follow-up surveys or focus groups and reviewing relevant data and incident reports.

Employers should also stay up to date with legislative changes and industry standards to consciously improve their approach to psychosocial risk management and ensure compliance.

Psychosocial risks have significant implications for employees' mental health and overall wellbeing. Recent changes in NSW legislation have reinforced the importance of addressing these risks by placing an explicit duty on employers to review and manage psychosocial risks.

By conducting comprehensive risk assessments, implementing appropriate controls and interventions, and regularly monitoring and reviewing their efforts, employers can create safer and healthier work environments.

Prioritising psychosocial risk management not only promotes employee wellbeing but also contributes to increased productivity, reduced turnover and a positive organisational culture.

Employers in NSW should embrace these recent changes and actively engage in reviewing and addressing psychosocial risks to foster a healthier and more supportive work environment. 

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