Psychosocial hazards such as bullying and harassment in the workplace represent a WHS risk as potentially damaging as any physical injury.

However, many workplaces fail to develop and implement appropriate controls to manage this risk, thus failing to fulfil their duties under WHS legislation.

A more robust approach, such as applying the hierarchy of controls to these risks, can assist organisations to safeguard their workers and fulfil their obligations.

The traditional hierarchy of control provides guidance regarding the efficacy of control measures for managing identified physical hazards. The controls are applied to minimise the risk, so far as is reasonably practicable, when elimination of the hazard is not possible; with the higher order controls (substitution, elimination and engineering controls) utilised as a priority, and the remaining residual risk managed via administrative controls and PPE.

The hierarchy of controls assumes the hazard is of a physical nature, and is not directly applicable to non-physical risks, however a similar hierarchical approach can be taken to developing and implementing controls for psychosocial risks.

Organisations could, for example, develop and implement controls for psychosocial risks in the following order:

  • Organisational Work Redesign: Alter workloads, pace, resource availability, decision-making involvement etc. to promote greater sense of control over the workplace for workers and remove or minimise psychosocial risks
  • Recognition in Management Systems: Develop and implement policies and procedures that assist in identifying psychological risk factors and promote psychological wellbeing for workers. Provide training and programs to support this
  • Building a Management Culture: Promote a culture within management that values worker psychological wellbeing and not just worker productivity, including providing judgement-free feedback mechanisms for workers
  • Proactive Wellbeing Strategies: Provide resilience training, role migration etc. for workers who are at risk of, or struggling with, psychological ill-health
  • Individual Support: Through the provision of an employee assistance program or similar.

Please contact QRMC for more information.