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New model code of practice on managing psychosocial hazards at work

Safe Work Australia has published its model code of practice Managing psychosocial hazards at work. The code, if approved in a state or territory, will be a practical guide to compliance. It will also be evidence that a court may have regard to in determining whether you have taken all reasonably practicable steps to manage psychosocial hazards in the circumstances outlined in the code.

Similar codes are already in operation in some jurisdictions, such as NSW, Queensland and Western Australia, which took steps to implement recommendations from the Boland Review of the work health and safety laws in 2018, including the recommendation to focus on psychosocial hazards.

Psychosocial hazards are hazards that may cause psychological and physical harm arising from or in relation to:

  • the design or management of work;
  • the working environment and equipment; and
  • workplace interactions or behaviours.

The code points out that on average, work-related psychological injuries have longer recovery times, higher costs, and require more time away from work. The code notes that complying with the code not only protects workers, it also decreases the disruption associated with staff turnover and absenteeism, and may improve performance and productivity.

Even if your jurisdiction has not adopted the new model code, it is important for your business to review it and determine whether you have implemented reasonably practicable controls as set out in the code. If your business has not undertaken a risk assessment for psychosocial hazards, you should follow the steps outlined in the code.

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