Psychosocial hazards and risks now part of new WA Workplace Management Laws

The new WA Workplace Safety laws include for the first time the need for employers to manage ‘psychosocial hazards and risks’ as part of the workplace safety management. This new duty places psychosocial hazards on the same footing as other significant hazards such as falls, or operating machinery (Regulation 55A).

Under the WA Workplace Regulations, a psychosocial hazard is anything that could cause psychological harm, for example harming someone’s mental health.

A person conducting a business, or undertaking (PCBU), must eliminate psychosocial risks, or if that is not reasonably practicable, minimise them so far as is reasonably practicable.

Psychosocial hazards can create stress. This can cause psychological or physical harm. Stress itself is not an injury, but if workers are stressed often, over a long time, or the level of stress is high, it can cause harm.

Psychological harm may include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and sleep disorders.

Physical harm may include musculoskeletal injuries, chronic disease or fatigue related injuries.

Mental health conditions account for an increasing proportion of serious workers’ compensation claims and have garnered significant attention in recent years as awareness of their impact on individuals and workplaces has grown.

On average, work-related psychological injuries have longer recovery times, higher costs, and require more time away from work.

Managing the risks associated with psychosocial hazards not only protects workers, but can also decrease the disruption associated with staff turnover and absenteeism, and may improve broader organisational performance and productivity.

SafeWork Australia has produced a code of practice for managing psychosocial hazards in the workplace which you can view here.