Risk Management in The Workplace: How Important It Is To Identify The Risk First, and What Employers

The Victorian Government proposed an amendment to the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations which holds a significant compliance obligation for employers to identify, manage and prevent risks to the employees' mental health.

The regulations are designed to provide employers with a clear understanding of their obligations regarding managing psychological risks and hazards.

The intention is to protect employees from sexual harassment, bullying, violence, aggression and other factors that can lead to psychological injuries such as high job demands, exposure to traumatic events or content, isolation or remote work, lack of support and poor workplace

relationships.

The proposed regulations seek to give employers more clarity in their obligations to protect workers from risks to mental health and put an equal chance with physical hazards, which can harm employees' safety and well-being. One of the most critical proposed changes requires employers to identify and control risks posed by the psychosocial hazard factors in work design, the system of work, management of work, carrying out the job, and personal or work-related interactions.

But why is it essential to identify the risk first, and what can employers do to control it?

Below is a list of the common psychosocial hazards you need to consider when identifying psychosocial risks in your organisation.


Workers are likely exposed to psychosocial hazards; some

risks may constantly be present, while others arise occasionally. Some hazards may cause serious harm, like experiencing workplace violence. In most situations, it will be a combination of psychosocial risks that may cause injury.

Harm may be caused by a single instance or over time with repeated or continuous exposure. Psychological hazards can be grouped or described in different ways. Though, how they are categorised is less important than ensuring you and your workers have the same understanding of what is happening and how it may be causing harm.

Common psychosocial hazards at work include:

  • job demands

  • low job control

  • poor support

  • lack of role clarity

  • poor organisational change management

  • inadequate reward and recognition

  • poor organisational justice

  • traumatic events or material

  • remote or isolated work

  • poor physical environment

  • violence and aggression

  • bullying

  • harassment, including sexual harassment, and

  • conflict or poor workplace relationships and

  • interactions

Identifying work-related psychosocial hazards is the first step in the risk management process.

It involves identifying the aspects of the work and situations that could potentially affect you, your workers or others at your workplace and why these may occur. It may include workload, leadership and culture, social factors and how the work is organised. This step should also assist PCBUs in identifying when and where workers are exposed to psychosocial hazards and if controls sufficiently eliminate or minimise risks from known hazards.

Consulting your workers will assist you in identifying any groups at risk, and whether there are additional reasonably practicable controls, you must implement to eliminate or minimise the troubles for these workers.

Risks must be identified before they can be managed. Psychosocial risk management should be a proactive process. All risks, no matter how small, should still be accounted for in risk assessments.

Psychosocial hazards and factors can be identified by:

  • Having conversations with the workers, supervisors, and health and safety specialists

  • Inspect the workplace to see how work is carried out

  • Observe how people interact with each other at work

  • Reviewing relevant information and records, such as incident reports, workers' compensation claims for both psychological injury and other disorders which are known to be linked to work-related stress, such as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), productivity levels, staff surveys, absenteeism and staff turnover data and exit interviews

  • Using surveys to gather information from workers, supervisors and managers.

After assessing the risk and determining which hazard(s) contribute most to that risk, establish, implement and maintain the most appropriate control measure(s) that are reasonably practical in the

circumstances.


When selecting a control, it is essential to consult with workers and justify why it was chosen over a different measure.

In controlling the risk, you have to consider frequency (how often), duration (how long), and severity (how significantly) your workers are exposed to psychosocial hazards that impact the level of risks. Hazards interacting or combining may also change the risks.

Managing or changing the level of risks workers are exposed to include:

The design of work, including job demands and tasks involved -- Considering how the work is designed will support you in eliminating hazards at the source and the organisational level. Your workers should have appropriate work to match their skills and experience. Matching jobs to workers' skills and scheduling non-urgent tasks for times of lower demand may assist in controlling risks.

Systems of work, including how work is managed, organised and supported -- Systems of work are the organisational rules, policies, procedures, and practices used to organise, manage and carry out work. These systems can introduce psychosocial hazards and help control them if carefully considered. A work system that supports and manages job demands may assist in controlling risks.

The design, layout, and environmental conditions, such as the safe method of entering and exiting the workplace and the welfare facilities -- A psychosocial hazard can cause a poor physical working environment. However, setting a workplace up can also control other psychosocial risks. For example, ensuring workers can avoid aggressive customers or observing when another worker may need assistance.

The design, layout, and environmental conditions of workers' housing -- In the working environment, accommodation provided for workers can either introduce or control psychosocial hazards. For instance, worker accommodation that does not offer adequate privacy or security can contribute to the risk of violence or harassment, whereas well-designed housing can help control these risks.

Plant (e.g. machinery, equipment, appliances and tools), substances and structures used at the workplace -- These factors can introduce psychosocial hazards that create a physical hazard that can't be adequately controlled. For example, a plant that makes loud noises, dust and vibrations creates a poor physical environment and contributes to psychosocial risks. However, a well-designed and maintained workplace will not only prevent such hazards but can also be used to control psychosocial hazards. A safe plant that allows work to be performed more efficiently can reduce high work demands.

Workers' interaction with one another in the workplace, their behaviour and relationships can also introduce psychosocial hazards. A poor organisational culture can hamper efforts to improve work health and safety by preventing workers from seeking and providing support, thereby discouraging workers from reporting hazards and participating in the consultation. Leaders demonstrating poor behaviour are likely to contribute to poor organisational culture. But supportive leadership, positive relationships and professional and respectful exchanges can help minimise psychosocial risks.

Information, training, instruction and supervision provided to workers -- These are necessary to implement control measures effectively and may also assist in controlling some psychosocial risks. For example, where low role clarity creates a hazard, information and training on the worker's role will help manage the risks.


Please get in touch with us if you would like more information or assistance about the new requirements of the proposed regulations, the undertaking of psychosocial risk assessments or anonymous reporting.


Call us today on 1300 114 818 for a private and confidential

conversation or email us at info@proactiveaction.co.


We look forward to talking to you soon.


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