The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 imposes a duty to all employers to eliminate or minimise risk to workers health and safety, as much as is reasonably practicable. This concept extends beyond preventing death and injuries in the workplace, and extends to include protecting employees’ emotional and psychological health through the minimisation of stressors at work.

The Work Health Safety Act 2011 includes specific clauses related to emotional health, including requiring employers to implement;

  • Agreed procedures for resolving issues
  • Effective training and information which is easy to understand
  • Comfortable working facilities

Employees are an integral part of any organisation, and a major factor in determining the success of a business. It is therefore important to encourage a positive and productive work environment by ensuring a strong safety culture. This means identifying hazards, assessing their risks and implementing control methods to eliminate them in order to avoid work-related stress.

Steps to improve psychological health and safety

Identifying potential hazards

The first step in improving the psychological health of your employees is to pinpoint and examine the hazards in the workplace which can potentially cause psychological harm.

These hazards can be identified by looking at:

  • Incident reports
  • Employee absenteeism and sick days
  • Turnover rates
  • Staff satisfaction feedback
  • Observations on how workers interact

Examples of potential hazards

Physical hazards such as air quality, noise, temperatures and unsafe facilities can all be examples of potential hazards. Other hazards include job related concerns such as job demand and clarity, and the types of support systems available and nature of workplace relationships.

Individual characteristics of employees influencing susceptibility to harm from hazards such as disabilities, illness, new employees, young employees and other personal characteristics

Assessing the risk of each hazard

Once the potential hazards have been identified, it is then necessary to assess the risk that each of these hazards have to cause harm within the workplace. This can be done by looking at the nature of the hazard, how much employees will be exposed to the hazard, and looking at how it will affect employees differently. Through careful assessment of each hazard, the level of risk and priority can be identified, allowing control methods to be relevant and effective.

Controlling the risks

As mentioned above, it is the business’ role to ensure that all risks are eliminated as much as reasonably practicable. It is therefore imperative that effective control methods are put in place that fit the workplace, work systems and individual employees.

Some examples of control methods:

  • Improve the physical working conditions which may cause stress, for example fixing lighting and temperature.
  • Implementing effective job design and analysis to ensure work isn’t too demanding under time constraints and ensuring that employees have clear job roles, adequate job control, effective support systems etc.
  • Creating policies and procedures which set the standard of behaviour in the workplace and allow channels for feedback
  • Training and induction (specifically for management) to ensure all employees are aware of policies and procedures and are aware of the potential psychological hazards in the workplace.
  • Ensure that managers possess the desired values, attitudes and behaviours and are able to influence their employees with positive behaviour.

Maintenance of control measures

The nature of the workplace and its employees are forever changing. It is therefore important that the measures that are implemented are constantly reviewed and updated in response to these changes, as well as any psychological issues which may arise.

The law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at
1800 780 770.