Work-related psychological injuries are becoming more and more prevalent in today’s workforce. It is estimated that poor psychological health and safety costs Australian organisations $6 billion per annum in lost productivity.1

On 14 June 2018, Safe Work Australia released Work-related psychological health and safety: A systematic approach to meeting your duties (Guide), a guide that describes a ‘systematic practical approach’ to managing work related psychological health and safety. The Guide focusses on ‘preventing harm’, ‘intervening early’ and ‘supporting recovery’. It states that using this three-phase approach can help persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to meet their work health and safety legal duties to implement controls that eliminate or minimise the risk of psychological injuries being caused by work as well as improving the PCBU’s approach to preventing psychological injury and supporting recovery.

Prevent harm

The Guide states that in order to prevent harm, PCBUs should identify work-related hazards and risks to psychological health, assess risks, implement effective control measures to eliminate hazards or minimise risks and consult effectively with its workers, their representatives and others when required.

Intervene early

The Guide explains the importance of intervening early for compliance with both work health and safety legislation and workers’ compensation laws. It outlines that early identification and management of any risks can help to minimise the potential severity of injuries and time lost from work.

Support recovery

Examples of intervening early include:

  • reviewing control measures and taking action when they are not effective
  • supporting workers showing early signs of work-related stress by modifying their work and
  • facilitating access to mental health services.

In relation to supporting the recovery of a psychological injury, the Guide states that employers should provide early assistance and support to workers when they are accessing treatment and rehabilitation services and should support timely and sustainable recovery at work or return to work. It also states that employers should review the effectiveness of control measures to ensure that further harm or a new injury does not occur.

The Guide provides examples of common psychosocial hazards that workers may be exposed to in the workplace. It also gives examples of where employers can go for help, including work health and safety regulators and workers’ compensation authorities, as well as providing practical scenarios.

PCBUs should continue to be aware of their work health and safety obligations and take steps to minimise risks to the health and safety of their workers.