NSW Government Bulletin: Part 1 - SafeWork NSW announces new psychological health and safety strategy

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SafeWork inspectors will conduct 'psychosocial WHS checks' when visiting workplaces with 200 or more employees.
Australia Employment and HR
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With SafeWork NSW announcing a crack down on government agencies and large companies to ensure compliance with the new psychosocial hazard laws, government department and agencies are encouraged to review the adequacy of their internal processes to ensure they meet the new standards and be prepared to respond to with the regulator's new focus.

On 22 May 2024, SafeWork NSW released its Psychological Health and Safety Strategy 2024–2026 (Strategy). Under the Strategy, SafeWork NSW has stated that it will increase regulatory action against high-risk and large businesses, as well as government agencies.

More specifically, SafeWork inspectors will conduct 'psychosocial WHS checks' when visiting a workplace with 200 or more employees. Employers that fail to comply with their work health and safety (WHS) duties will face regulatory action and a potential WHS prosecution in the case of a serious or repeated breach.

It is essential for government agencies and departments to understand their obligations and be prepared.

What is a psychosocial hazard?

A psychosocial hazard is an aspect of the work environment that may induce a stress response in a worker or other person, leading to psychological or physical harm. Psychosocial hazards may arise from:

  • the design or management of work
  • the requirement to undertake tasks involving an inherent psychosocial hazard or risk
  • the requirement to perform tasks in a physically hazardous environment
  • social factors such as workplace interactions or behaviours.

Common psychological hazards include work overload, bullying, harassment, lack of role clarity and exposure to traumatic events.

What are the duties of an employer?

Under WHS laws, persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) have a positive duty to manage psychosocial risks within their workplace. To discharge this duty, control measures must be implemented to eliminate psychosocial risk, or where it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, minimise the psychosocial risk so far as reasonably practicable.

In light of the Strategy, it is essential that PCBUs review the effectiveness of the current control measures in place to manage psychosocial risks and assess them against the controls recommended in the SafeWork NSW code of practice, Managing psychosocial hazards at work. In assessing what control measures to implement, the following should be considered:

  • duration, frequency and severity of a worker's exposure to a psychological hazard
  • potential interaction or combination of several psychological hazards
  • design of the work, including the demands of the job
  • systems in place to manage, organise and support work
  • design, layout and environmental conditions within the workplace
  • plant, substances and structures at the workplace
  • interactions and behaviours in the workplace
  • information, training, instruction and supervision of workers.

See our earlier articles on how to protect your staff from psychosocial hazards and legislative changes in other states and territories for more information. If you have any questions on managing psychosocial hazards in the workplace, please get in touch with a member of our team below.

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed.

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