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Navigating Workplace Psychosocial Hazards

In a recent webinar presented by Deborah Shand, the National Psychology Services Manager at Rehab Management, participants were treated to a valuable session on “Navigating Workplace Psychosocial Hazards.” This insightful webinar explored the evolving landscape of workplace health and safety and highlighted the critical role employers play in ensuring the psychological well-being of their employees.

Deborah’s role is to look after the psychological services, and support senior managers and staff to deliver these services. As she puts it, “The best thing about my job is the people. I am inspired by the dedication and passion of the people I work with, and their drive to truly understand their clients and support them to lead a purposeful life.”

In the webinar, Deborah emphasised the recent revisions to workplace health and safety laws introduced by Safe Work Australia, wherein psychological health is now considered as vital as physical health. Employers are mandated to review and make changes within their workplaces to ensure compliance.

The webinar defined psychosocial hazards as anything that could harm mental well-being and psychosocial risks as the potential harm arising from these hazards. For instance, a police officer witnessing the aftermath of a serious car accident could be exposed to the hazard, with the risk being the development of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Employers are responsible for identifying “reasonably foreseeable” psychosocial hazards, eliminating them as far as practicable, and minimizing the risk. They are also encouraged to record hazards, incidents, and control measures while regularly reviewing their workplace for safety improvements.

Safe Work Australia introduced the “Code of Practice: Managing psychosocial hazards at work” in May 2021. Some states have amended regulations to include this code of practice, while others have introduced new regulations or legislation. The responsibility of an employer remains consistent across the board.

Deborah highlighted that protecting employees is not only ethically sound but also a strategic move for businesses, as codes of practice are admissible in court. The impact of psychological injuries, compared to physical injuries, can result in longer healing times, extended time off work, and higher financial costs.

Psychosocial hazards can originate from various sources, including job demands, the physical work environment, and interactions with colleagues, the public, or customers. These hazards may manifest as excessive time pressure, unrealistic expectations, or poor workplace relationships, among others.

The severity, likelihood, duration, and interactions of these hazards are key considerations. Problems arise when work demands exceed an individual’s capacity and capability to cope. Therefore, businesses must consider various factors, including task organisation, management, and support.

Physical, psychological, and behavioural symptoms can indicate the presence of psychosocial hazards. These symptoms include headaches, fatigue, low mood, anxiety, and changes in behaviour. Monitoring these symptoms can aid in identifying potential hazards and addressing them promptly.

To assist organisations in evaluating their psychosocial risk factors, Deborah recommended the “People at Work” survey, which is free of charge and accessible online. This survey provides a comprehensive report comparing a business’s results against benchmarks from various Australian industries.

Deborah’s webinar encouraged businesses and organisations to promote discussions about workplace safety as actively as they do their business strategies. Creating a safer environment, adopting practical strategies, and seeking advice from health professionals when necessary can help organisations navigate the complex waters of psychosocial hazards effectively. By doing so, they not only protect their employees but also strengthen their overall performance and well-being.


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