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Managing psychosocial hazards: Harassment including sexual harassment

Harassment including sexual harassment, is a common psychosocial hazard. Harassment towards another person in relation to age, disability, race, sex, relationship status, family responsibilities, sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status can also be considered discriminatory.

The Managing the risk of psychosocial hazards at work Code of Practice 2022 came into effect on 1 April 2023. It provides practical guidance for duty holders on ways to eliminate or minimise risks to psychological health and safety at work, including harassment and sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that is done to either offend, humiliate, or intimidate another person, or where it is reasonable to expect the person might feel that way when exposed to certain behaviours. These can include uninvited physical intimacy and/or propositions, remarks with sexual innuendo and jokes of a sexual nature.

To prevent or minimise the risk of exposure to harassment including sexual harassment, there are several controls that could be implemented. Some of these include ensuring a diverse representation of the workforce, standards of acceptable behaviour that are modelled by workplace leaders and ensuring worker equality practises are in place.

The risk management process for managing psychological and physical hazards is the same, and follows four key areas:

Identify hazards

  • Consult with workers, and health and safety representatives.
  • Review workers’ compensation claims, internal hazard and complaints records.
  • Walkthroughs of the work environment.

Assess the risk

  • Consider the number of workers exposed to the hazard.
  • Consider the frequency and duration of exposure.
  • Consider the interaction and combination of psychosocial hazards.

Control the risk

  • Control measures needed to implement according to the hierarchy of controls (eliminate or minimise the risk as far as reasonably practicable).
  • Controls needed to be from an organisational or systems level (and not be individual-focussed).
  • Include input from workers who are directly involved in the work.

Monitor and review controls

  • Check to see if controls are effective in eliminating or minimising the risk or if they may be creating another hazard.
  • Check if the controls are being adopted by workers.
  • Consider if there’s been a change in the work environment or processes after an incident.

More information