This livestreamed session explores common event based and cumulative psychosocial hazards and factors in the design or management of work that increases the risk of psychological or physical harm, the types of controls you could consider and what ‘reasonably practicable’ means.
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Hi everyone, I'm Mark Oostergo, and I'll be your MC for today. Welcome to the first Mental Health Week livestream session for 2022. I would like to begin by respectfully acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land. We are speaking to you from today and on which you are learning and working from today. We also pay our respects to elders past, present, and emerging, and extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people watching today. Mental Health Week is held nationally every October to raise awareness of the importance of psychologically safe and healthy workplaces, and contribute to driving behaviour and attitudinal change to reduce stigma and discrimination of mental illness. Hello to those of you who I saw yesterday at the World Mental Health Breakfast Panel event, and welcome to those joining us for the first time. In today's session, our speakers will explore common event based and cumulative psychosocial hazards and factors in the design or management of work that increases the risk of psychological or physical harm, the types of controls you can consider, and what reasonably practical means in the workplace.
You'll hear from three industry guest speakers today, and I'd like to introduce them to you now. Firstly, we have Tanya Orszulak Principal Advisor from the Psychological Health Unit at the Office of Industrial Relations. Tanya is a principal advisor in the Psychological Health Unit with over 20 years experience working in various roles, including as an inspector investigator within Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. Tanya has a psychology degree and is currently studying a masters of counselling. Tanya's Wealth of Experience while working for the Queensland regulator. Together with her studies and genuine passion for prioritizing the importance of psychological health in and outside of work, are utilized in her current role that involves providing advice, training, mentoring, and presenting to internal and external stakeholders about work related psychological health and safety.
Secondly, we have Dr. Kirsten Way, senior lecturer and program director at the Center for Business and Organizational Psychology at the University of Queensland, where she conducts research on safety, the role of supervisors in conflict, psychosocial hazards, occupational stress, fatigue, and return to work after psychological injury. Dr Way is an organizational psychologist, occupational therapist, and certified professional ergonomist with over 20 years practical experience in regulating psychological health and safety. Elias Jeha, legal support officer from the Office of Industrial Relations. Elias joins us with 25 years post admission experience as a lawyer, including defense and prosecution roles. Elias has eight years of operational safety in the mining sector and worked in operational roles during that time. He is currently attached to the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland statewide Investigations team providing legal advice on the current investigations. There will also be the opportunity to ask Elias, Tanya, and Kirsten questions at the end of today's session, so please feel free to drop them into the chat box as we work through the questions today. I'd like to extend a warm welcome to all our panellists this morning, and I'm very much looking forward to the contributions that we can make to such a critical and important topic. Firstly, I'd like to throw over to Tanya. Tanya, my first question to you is around the code of practice. Can you please explain what is a code of practice and why would we have different codes of practice for different psychosocial hazards?
Thank you. Thanks for having us today, and thank you for your question. Um, so what is a code of practice? It's a practical guide on how to comply with the legal duties under the Work Health and Safety Act and regulations. So when we look at, um, the legislation, the code of practice, it sits sort of, uh, around the middle of the hierarchy. So there's the Work Health and Safety Act, then the regulations code of practice, and then we look at industry standards and guidance. Um, when we talk about, um, why a code of practice may be developed for specific hazards, well, it's to make sure that duty holders understand specifically what they need to do to comply with duties in relation to that hazard. So if we're talking about psychosocial hazards, then that code is specifically designed to help with knowing what to do to be able to meet your duties. So, um, Elias will talk to you in a little bit about what this means. But when we talk about meeting duties, we're talking about what's reasonably practicable and a code of practice provides that information specifically on how to comply or what is reasonably practicable to be done to meet your duties.
Thanks Tanya, for explaining that to us. So it sounds like that code of practice is, is really key in terms of bringing that regulation and legislation into the applied sense and, and what we can do in workplaces to really start to address some of those psychosocial hazards that we might be writing these kinds of practices. For my next question, I'd like to go over to both Kirsten and Tanya, um, and, and I'm wondering if you could please provide some common examples of common psychosocial hazards, uh, and describe the difference between event based and cumulative psychosocial hazards.
Yeah, sure. So, psychosocial hazards are one of the core parts of the codes of practice that are starting to, to evolve in, uh, come out in many jurisdictions around Australia. So the national, um, model code of practice and New South Wales has recently re released one as well. Um, and in those, there's usually around about 14 common psychosocial factors. And what these are, are, are factors in the design or management of work that have the potential to cause psychological physical harm. And this occurs by workers experiencing an extreme or prolonged physiological and psychological stress response. So that's the mechanism by which the injury occurs. You can think about psychosocial hazards in terms of job demands, things like time pressure, workers having too much to do in too little time conflict at work, bullying, violence, sexual harassment, or you can think about psychosocial hazards in terms of a lack of job resources like having no say in how you do your work or a lack of support from your supervisor or coworkers or a lack of fairness in, in how decisions are made or a lack of recognition and reward.
And these factors, these psychosocial factors that I spoke about just then work together to create harm so they can have either an additive or interactive effect in the way they increase the risk of psychological injury. So rooting these out, rooting these hazards out and putting things in place to intervene when you do find them, is what every good employer does and what the codes of practice really try to explain in how you can do that. So in terms of the question about cumulative versus event-based, you can think about the hazards in these terms and there's a number of different ways you can categorize hazards, and this is just one of them. So invent event-based hazards, uh, one off events, things like occupational violence, exposure to a traumatic event, or can be a pattern of repeated events like bullying and sexual harassment. By definition, they're discreet, observable, recordable, accountable, and their effect can often, often, but always they can often be felt immediately.
And there's often less resistance from workers and managers about accepting the potential for event based hazards in creating harm. Cumulates, cumulative psychosocial hazards, on the other hand, can be multifactorial in nature and harm can build up over time. So factors like high work demands in combination with lack of support and low levels of job control fit into this category. Think of a worker in a call center with unreachable sale targets in a micromanager supervisor, and over time the harm occurs. Um, and the reason this distinction can be helpful is it can make a difference in risk perception. We are better at perceiving risk for event-based harms and cumulative hazards, and it also changes the nature and type of risk assessment that that can be done and changes the type of evidence that is available, which comes back full circle to some of the things we'll be talking about in terms of regulating psychosocial hazards. I don't know if you have anything to add, because the question was to both of us and I've spoken…
Oh, no, no, thanks. Thanks, Kirsten. I think that was really comprehensively explained, but I guess can I just add a couple of things to that in that when we talk about the cumulative and the event based, so just thinking about those cumulative, like Kirsten said, there's that interrelationship so often. It's not just one thing that happens in isolation that can cause stress and then harm. So it's often that combination and sometimes some of those other factors may actually mitigate some of those risks. So if we talk about, say, the high work demands or job demands, and then we think about the support. So if we have that and we have good support systems at work through our colleagues or our supervisors, that can often, um, mitigate that effect of harm. And the other thing I want you to think about too is when we talk about the event based in relation to the cumulative, so if we look at those cumulative ones and they're not managed effectively or appropriately, they can also lead to some of those event-based, um, hazards occurring as well. So while bullying, sexual harassment, et cetera can be in themselves, um, psychosocial hazards and cause harm, some of those cumulative ones, if they're not managed, can also lead to those as being the outcome or some of the behaviours that are exhibited to cause harm
And increase the risk of harm occurring. So there's lots of great studies that have looked at, um, education, police, those kinds of contexts where there is this low level cumulative risk that's been bubbling away and then the event occurs. And if that event had have occurred when there wasn't those cumulative risks… That's right. Bubbling away, then the harm wouldn't have manifested as to to as great an extent. Exactly.
Thank you both so much for unpacking that. I guess what I'm hearing in that is that this is quite a complex area, right? We've, we've got a large number of psychosocial hazards, 14 you said, that are kind of pretty common and that if they're not isolated in nature and that they actually interact with each other. And so, and that can be both, I guess from, uh, a positive or protective way in terms of if we enhance leadership support or social support within the workplace, that can be protective. Um, but conversely that they can be additive in nature and so that they can actually enhance the risk profile or increase the risk profile if some hazards are left unmanaged. Um, so really quite a complex area when you start to think about how they all interact and, and what levers we can pull to start to manage that, that risk. My next question is for Elias and, uh, you know, we hear this term reasonably practical a lot, and as a workplace or as an employer, we need to do what is reasonably practical to actually start managing
these hazards. But what does that term actually mean? Yeah, thanks, Mark. Uh, reasonably practical. Uh, it's a term that's found in all of the main duties that are found in the, uh, Work Health and Safety Act. Um, so when you see that word show up in the legislation, um, it refers back then to a particular section in the, the act itself, section 18 of the Work Health Safety Act, where it's defined. Uh, there are a lot of people that have different views sometimes about what they think is reasonably practical, uh, and that's often a subject. They have subjective views, so they think, well, I think it's this, um, I think it's that I think this is reasonably practical to do. Uh, and it's, that's subjective approach to working out what reasonably practical is. And the first thing you need to remember is that it's an objective, uh, test.
Uh, and it can be worked out by following the section. And even though that sounds simple, that's not often done that way. Uh, so what I'm gonna do really is explore, um, the section itself and try and explain to you how to get to that part, um, point of deciding what is reasonably practical, um, by using the objective measures that are contained in the section itself. Um, so when you start reading through the section, uh, it starts with, uh, talking about reasonably practical being, um, something or things that are reasonably able to be done. Um, and what that means is, is, uh, not everything that can be done. So the, you know, to give an example, um, if one of the controls that someone thought up, uh, you know, was to put every worker through a four week training program, uh, at a, you know, at a provider when you work through the section, um, you might find that that isn't a reasonably able to be done purely because, uh, when you look at the, the different factors that are contained within the section, um, you'll find that it, that it's, it just doesn't, you know, it, it's something that could be done, but it's not reasonable to do it.
Um, so what I'll do again, like I said, is, is work through the section. Um, there are five, um, there are five factors or five matters in this section, um, that you then need to explore. So the first one is, uh, sorry, the first one, first factor is the likelihood, uh, of the hazardous risk occurring at the workplace. Uh, now, um, you've heard from Kirsten and Tanya about different psychosocial hazards that can occur at workplaces. Um, so you would consider, I think that if you have a workplace with people, you're likely to have, um, a likelihood of psychosocial harm at the workplace. So the, the next thing you do and what the section tells you to do is to consider each of the factors, but then to give them weight. So, you know, if you think something's likely in your workplace, then you need to consider that and give that some weight, um, to your thinking about what controls you should put in place.
So the next matter is in the section is, is be, which is the degree of harm that might result from hazard of risk. So you might think there are potentially quite serious harm that may come from the hazard or the risk and, and psychosocial harm. Uh, and the, you know, it's quite evident I, I think, uh, of the types of harm that can come from psychosocial hazards. So again, that's something that you have to give weight to. So when you look at those two matters, to start with, the likelihood and degree of harm, uh, for those that do risk assessments, that's your often your first starting point. Uh, those two, um, those two factors of likelihood, uh, and degree of harm, um, is where you, where, where generally risk assessment start and then controls get decided on. Uh, now for the section of what, what's reasonably practical, that's just the start.
There are two things that you have to consider and weigh up, but that's not the end. So you do your risk assessment, um, you think you've got controls well, that, that isn't working out what's reasonably practical to do. Um, the section tells you you then have to go through the next three matters. So the next matter is what you know or, or reasonably to know about the hazard or the risk and the ways of eliminating or minimizing the risk. So there's a pretty compelling argument that any organization that employs people ought reasonably to know about psychosocial hazards and risk at the workplace, and also the ways to eliminate or minimize those risk risks. However, if you ought reasonably, what you ought reasonably to know will depend on your, uh, specific circumstances and any specific psychosocial hazards or risks at that workplace itself. So all, all of these factors when you consider them, um, a against the section, have to relate to your organization.
Uh, so that, um, you know, even the first two factors, the, the likelihood, uh, and degree of harm, again, they have to relate to your workplace at that particular time that you are looking at what's reasonably able to be done. Um, so you need to, when you're considering the, the controls and when you're considering what you ought reasonably to know that might include or should include external information as well. Uh, I'll talk a little later about how codes fit into that, uh, and that assessment of what's reasonably practicable, uh, and particularly what you ought reasonably to know about those different factors that the hazard of the risk and ways of eliminating or minimizing the risk. Then you get to, um, d the fourth factor within the, uh, within section 18, it requires you to consider the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimize the risk.
And that simply means that are those controls available to you, uh, and are they suitable to apply in your organization? And often the controls for psychosocial hazards are system space controls. So most organizations, you, you'll have the ability to implement them in the workplace. Uh, and again, you you have to weigh that up, um, uh, with the other three matters as as well. You know, like I said, you, you might need to put every employee through a four week trading program cuz that when you look at the sections, not likely to be reasonably practical, but it's very tough to argue. I, I would, I would suggest as an organization to say you can't make, uh, even significant changes to your health and safety system to ensure that you're properly controlling psychosocial hazards. When you look at those first four factors and you combine them together, cuz the last factor is E and it, it tells you that you have to first consider, um, the effectively the first four, um, what the likelihood and degree of harm is, what the ways of eliminating and minimizing the risk are, and then consider whether the cost of implementing those controls is grossly disproportionate to what the risk is.
Uh, so that's often very difficult to, um, demonstrate cost grossly disproportionate to risk if you've properly gone through those first four factors. Uh, so if you look at all the matters you have to consider, if you've come to the following conclusions, that psychosocial risks are likely to exist at your workplace, There's serious potential consequences from those risks and that you know or should know about those risks and the controls that the controls are available and suitable to be implemented in your organization. Uh, you know, if as an example, you've considered implementing a system for managing psychosocial risk, again, I'd suggest it's very difficult to say that that cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk. Uh, now there is a more, uh, detailed def uh, definition and explanation of reasonably practical as well. And there's, there's some safe Work Australia guidance material that's excellent to read, and there'll be a link, uh, in the, um, materials to that safe Work Australia guidance material material, and really urge you to, to look through that and consider that and follow that when you are assessing what controls you're gonna put in your workplace. Because that word reasonably practical, it, it underpins what your duty is. Uh, and you only get to find out what's reasonably practical if you follow the section and you follow it in a way that the section tells you to do it.
Thanks, Elias. Thanks so much for taking us through that. Uh, so I guess a couple of the key reflections that I took from that response is that it, it's an objective assessment versus being a, a subjective one. And that there are really kind of five key things under the section that we need to, to consider. So firstly, we need to, to think about the likelihood, um, around the risk occurring and, and whether it's going to occur within the workplace. Um, and then with that risk, the, the degree of harm, um, that might occur from that risk being within the workplace, then considering through that assessment what we ought to know both internally and externally to the organization. Then finally, or, and then the, the availability and sustainability of any controls or interventions that might assist with the risk. And then finally, the, the cost and, and really I think, you know, that cost in proportion to the risk, which I, I, I picked up as a really key factor there. So thank you for taking us through that. Um, I'm gonna come back to Tanya now, and Tanya, before we spoke about, you know, what is the code of practice and, and where does it sit within that hierarchy, But if we have people joining us from an organization today, whether they're a leader, an employee, uh, a small business owner mm-hmm.
Mm-hmm. Okay. So we've got a number of, uh, codes of practice. So if you do look on our work safe website, I think there's around 50, um, there. And they're specifically in relation to certain issues, topics, or hazards. So while there's an exhaustive amount of codes of practice available to assist you with how to manage your duties, um, that's not everything you need to do. So you can't just rely on a code of practice to tell you exactly what to do. But if there is one available, then you should look at that because as a Elias, uh, spoke about that is information that is out there, and that's something that you ought to reasonably know, and that's actually a minimum standard for, um, an organization or a duty holder person in conducting a business or undertaking to, to consider in meeting their duties. So if we look at psychosocial hazards at work, um, and, um, you know, there are a number of codes that we have currently that we can use to assist with that, and there are other guidance materials available.
But if we look at that specifically, then if there is a code of practice that exists for a specific hazard or a specific issue, then it's actually spells it out for, uh, a duty holder. So it's, it's actually tells you what you need to do to meet your duties. So if you follow the code, then that tells you that's what you do. If you don't want to follow the code, then you have to meet that standard or do better than that standard. So it's really a, it kind of spells it out for you. And we spoke about the different risks and the different psychosocial hazards. So when you look at that and you look at a code, it will talk, it will tell you these are the hazards, this is the risk, and these are the controls. So the controls are what can we implement to, um, prevent or minimize, um, harm to workers.
Thank you so much for, for acking through that practical application o of a code of practice. And, and I think for me, one of the key things there for workplaces is really those controls, right? Like I, I think often the, the, the easier part, I'm not gonna call it easy, but the easier part might be that assessment in terms of identifying the risk for workplaces, but the, you know, one of the big questions that I often hear is how do we actually tackle it? Yeah. That's what do we do to address it and how do we implement that within our workplace? Mm-hmm. So having that guidance within the, the kind of practice is absolutely key and valuable. Um, Kirsten coming back to you and, and your role at the University of Queensland, uh, obviously, um, I would imagine being in a university heavily involved in, in the evidence space and, and, uh, and in research. So I'd be really keen to, to hear from you, what, what is some of the emerging research that you are involved in, uh, with regards to psychosocial hazards in the workplace?
Yeah. Um, so, uh, I just want to start by saying thank you for explaining that Eli, um, for the audience, I have worked in health and safety in my life. So these terms, like reasonably practical roll off my tongue, talk about 'em all the time. And in teaching post grad students who are going out to work in safety roles, um, often they don't realize that these terms are actually legally defined terms. And I even had one student say to me once, I thought you were making up that word practical, there's no such word as practical, is there
So first of all, in terms of studying prevention, we're analyzing data from a really large, uh, data set around 25,000 Australian workers and exploring the neurological network of psycho psychosocial hazards. So what, I know that's a hideously big word, um, but looking at how those 14 hazards, um, work together and in combination in predicting mental health outcomes using advanced analytic techniques that haven't been available before now. So previously we've been able to look at one or two hazards in isolation and how they interact with each other. But now that we can look at all 14 together with these, um, new, uh, analytic techniques, um, we can see, start to see that there's these cascading effects, effects with hazards. So some hazards are kind of root nodes that c that flow down and, um, increase the likelihood of other hazards occurring. And those things in, in, when you look at them in com, certain combinations can predict with quite high precision whether the workforce is likely to develop, um, high or low psychological distress.
So for example, we can see that, um, certain scenarios where employers manage four or fives of those 14 psychosocial hazards reduce the risk, um, or, or, or are able to predict with around 89%, um, accuracy, the likelihood of their workers having low psychological, um, injury. So really exciting research that that hasn't been able to be done before. Now we are really hoping it'll make a difference to be able to allow employees to better target their risk control methods to prevent harm. Um, the second study that we're looking at is looking at what type of interventions organizations are using when they've, when they implement risk management for psychosocial hazards. And we've been doing, uh, semi-structured interviews with HR and OHS professionals who've been in roles where they've implemented the people at work process, which is a psychosocial risk management process, and investigating their motivations for using it and their mental models that they have for implementation success and helping to, um, um, explore what those motives and, uh, mental models for success mean in terms of the likelihood of having good outcomes for risk management.
And the last study I just wanted to quickly talk about was one that we were looking at really interested in exploring what happens when things go wrong. So the perceptions of workers, um, who put in complaints to the, to the regulator, um, and what their expectations are, uh, and what their, um, their expectations about both the, the complaint process and the complaint outcomes. And do they have a preference for retributive or restorative, um, justice in that, those processes? So in this study, we invited all workers who'd made a complaint about psychosocial hazards to the regulator between 2019, 2020 to participate. And we interviewed 34 complainants and also coded the text fields from the inspectorate databases about these complaints. And just the snapshot of these interesting findings, we found that, um, 41, the, the, the complainants perceived 41% of the complainants perceived that their employers hadn't responded to their complaint sufficiently.
And 28% of them said that their employer actually took adverse action against them because they'd raised a complaint. Importantly, all of them said that the inaction or action of the employer was one of the subs, the, the primary substantive contributing factors that prompted them to make a complaint to the regulator. Um, so what this tells us is that, um, employers can do a lot to, to, um, intervene early in these kinds of instances that can prevent the complaint processes or the dissatisfaction or the harm in escalating. Um, the expectations about making the complaint was what they hoped would happen was that there'd be a restoration of their psychological safety. They wanted the regulator to enforce behavioral standards and have some kind of justice repair in the workplace. They really had an expectation that they'd be supported through the complaint process. And interestingly, most of them were more interested in restorative justice than retributive justice. So they really only wanted retribution if at the workplace there'd been no acknowledgement of wrongdoing by the transgressor. Um, so yeah, so three interesting streams of research I think that yeah. That are related to this topic.
Absolutely. And I, I think, you know, listening to those three different examples, what I what I'm hearing in there is, you know, absolutely that kind of, you know, when we think about interventions in this space and, and how we tackle it, that balance of primary, secondary and, and tertiary, and hearing that, you know, absolutely that understanding of prevention through that first study, then thinking through what some of those interventions might be in that second study and, and then that kind of tertiary based approach. So when things do go wrong, um, you know, being able to look at, well, how do we address that well so that it is that restorative process and and recovery can occur for people. Yeah. Which is fantastic to see the, the evidence based looking at all those, those different areas. Um, just coming back to that first study, uh, a question popped up for me when you were, uh, describing, and I think it's come through the chat as well. Um, you mentioned four or five hazards that if addressed can predict much lower rates of psychological injury in the workplace. Uh, so I'm wondering, can you tell us what they
Are? Yeah, so it, what what we've been doing is we've been looking at this data across industry and then in different unique industries. So they're different for each industry as you would expect. Um, so, um, and so it would be remiss of me to say, you know, outta the 14, only concentrate on these five. Yeah. Because that's the reason, um, that employers need to do their own risk assessment to ascertain the likelihood and severity of harm associated with the, the psychosocial hazards that are unique for their particular, um, workplace. But what it does tell us is that, or within certain organizations and industries, that all hazards are not created equal, and that there can be a focused effort on particular hazards to create the, the lowest, um, uh, the, the biggest bang for your, your buck say in terms of reducing the risk. And even, for example, the people at work report that organizations get, give that similar kind of information, but just without quantifying, um, you know, the, the, the likelihood of reducing the risk the same way these other models do. So, um, any risk assessment in psychosocial hazards, usually when it's done well, allows organizations to identify that there's probably, you know, two or three that are really creating the most harm and the others would be nice to fix, but you'll, you'll get the most bang forb buck if you target it to these particular ones.
Fantastic. And I think those are, are really important reflections, right? So it it, when, when doing that risk assessment, we need to consider the, the industry, the operational context, what the organization is doing and, and how people are, are working within that organization, and then using this research to be able to prioritize, uh, which risks or, or hazards to address in, in the first instance. Mm. It's fantastic. Um, so Eli, I'd like to come back to you and, and come back to the, the term reasonably practicable and, and maybe can we unpack a bit of an example or, or explanation around how a code of practice, uh, might be used to implement reasonably practical within an organization? Sure.
So codes, uh, assist in assessing what is reasonably practical. Uh, and they also help in working out what controls also might be available and suitable for the organization. Um, you might consider that psychosocial risk would be so similar across Australia. Um, so resources and codes from other states, uh, the Safe Work Australia material and, and code. They're really great assistance in, in helping to determine what is reasonably practical for your specific workplace. Um, if Queensland introduces a code of practice, which it's likely to do, then that code will become very useful and, uh, determining what is reasonably practical. Um, one of the, one of the reasons it does that, uh, is there's a section of the legislation section 2 75, which says if there's a proceeding, so a, a prosecution that, um, the court's able to take what's in a code of practice as information, which is, um, evidence of the matters in, um, a through to, um, e in section 18.
So the, the court's able to take what's in a code and say, Well, that is evidence of what's reasonably practicable. Uh, it's evidence of likelihood, degree of harm, it's evidence of what's known or reasonably to know about the hazard of risk and ways of eliminating and minimizing the risk, uh, and then evidence of whether it's available or suitable, and also whether costs grossly disproportionate. So when you look at it that way, the, the codes, um, can become determinative almost in working out whether there's been compliance or non-compliance, um, with the duty, um, because it, it, it is, can be considered as evidence. Um, so it also though, if you follow an approved code in the workplace or you follow another way that's equal to or better than the code, it may be to become a defense to any potential prosecution and just generally, um, against, uh, will demonstrate compliance, um, within the workplace.
Now the, the code is, uh, and a 10 mentioned earlier, the codes are minimum standards so that I contain everything, um, that needs to be done. Um, but by approaching your psychosocial hazards in and risks and considering, um, how the code applies to what's reasonably practical for your workplace is really the, the best way to utilize those codes. Um, the draft Queensland code even has some examples of, um, systems documents that could be tailored for your workplace. So it, it, it goes, uh, a little additionally, you know, a little bit of additional information that's in the psychosocial code of practice that you, you probably won't find in, um, some of the other codes that are, that are out there. So there's, there's a real wealth of information, um, but also, um, there's a great usefulness of the, um, hopefully soon to be released Queensland code, um, in, in meeting your psychosocial, um, uh, or the, uh, complying with your duty, uh, under the act for psychosocial risks.
Um, but even without the Queensland code, um, there, there is already, um, a really great wealth of useful information. Um, as I said, with Safe Work Australia, um, Kirsten mentioned New South Wales, um, have a psychosocial code of practice. Um, the Queensland Code's not likely to be too dissimilar to those codes in any event. Um, so I, I would urge everyone to look at that extraneous material, uh, and then think about how it might apply to their workplace, work through the factors in section 18 and think about them with respect to the workplace. And then you'll have a really good idea of what's reasonably practical and take it away from that, um, discussion around, I think this, or I think that, I think we can do this. Um, if you apply the section and the way that it, it tells you to assess it, then you'll have your answer objectively about, um, how to actually discharge and manage your duty in relation to psychosocial hazards.
Fantastic. So for an organization out there workplace, whether it big or small, it's a great place to start to really think through what are those bare minimum requirements that I need to, to implement to start to address, uh, some of these psychosocial hazards or, or factors within the workplace. Absolutely. To be able to demonstrate, uh, some compliance in, in terms of with the, the broader regulations and, and legislation, um, and absolutely acknowledging that whilst Queensland hasn't released it, its code of practice yet and, and soon to be released, that there is still a wealth of information out there for the audience that they can go and access
To, to stuff that's, that's right. It's readily available. So again, very difficult for any organization to say, um, they couldn't possibly have known about how to manage their psychosocial risk in the workplace. Cuz the information is there. Uh, the duty and all of the duties and the act for employees are positive duties. That means that there's a requirement for those organizations in your organization to actively look for and find that information, uh, not just be provided with it. So in fact, even if you've attended today or you are listening to this information, that of itself is, is, um, going part of the way to, to discharging your duty by actually taking that proactive approach to, um, consider, um, psychosocial hazards in your workplace.
Fantastic. Thank you very much Elias, to the audience. We we're going to be coming to your questions soon in the chat box. So I encourage you to please now consider, you know, some of the, the information that we've been discussing today and think through what some of those questions might be for our panelists. But before we come to you, uh, in the audience, so I've got a couple more questions. Um, we've talked already about a few of the resources out there for organizations in terms of codes of practice as a, a guiding document to, to assist with this. But what are some of the other resources out there that, uh, workplaces can, can start to leverage to address this within, uh, you know, to address workplace mental health? And, and Tanya, I I might go to you first if that's okay. What are, what are some of the key resources that you think would be fantastic for organizations to look at? Mm,
No problems. Mark, I'll, I'll do that, but I just wanted to quickly say thank you to Elias. You made my heart sing hearing about, talking about what's reasonably practical and the information that's already out there. So if you're a duty holder, don't wait for a code to come out to be able to start looking at what you need to do to manage psychosocial hazards and risks at work. You have a positive duty that's in place now that cover is covered under the Work Health and Safety Act. So I'd encourage you to look at all the information that is available. And some of that includes, like we said, the Safe Work Australia information that's out there. There is a model code in relation to psychosocial hazards and managing those at work. New South Wales has it Western Australia. So if you look at their different regulators and what they have, there's a lot of guidance information available and there's tools and resources that we have.
Um, Kirsten mentioned people at work. So this is actually, uh, a resource that you can use to be able to do a psychosocial risk assessment. So it's there for you to use, it's available free, um, so you can just jump on to, um, the website and use that to help you to go through the steps of how to identify, how to do, how to assess the risks and what sort of controls to put in place as well as consultation and the whole process. So there's that. There's also, uh, mentally healthy workplaces, toolkits, so that's available on our work safe website as well as loads of guidance information that we have. It's almost information overload as far as all the information that you can use to assist you with how to manage psychosocial hazards at work.
Awesome. So it sounds like there is so much out there. So people at Work, which is a, a great tool for organizations to, to start with potentially, um, if I'm completely new to this space, never tackled it before in my life, and I have to go and do one of these assessments and you've got this tool here, or what resources are there to support me in doing that?
Um, well, if we look at the people at work for, for a start, that's actually not, it's more than just a survey. So part of it, the process is a survey, but there's also resources within that online, um, format to be able to help you through the various steps you need to take to be able to go through that psychosocial risk assessment process and resources to teach you about what are psychosocial hazards, what are the risks associated with that, and what are the things I should be doing. So there's, there's that as well as, as I said, the loads of guidance available on our site as well as, um, of information available from other regulators around Australia. And there's also, um, international, So we have, um, if we're looking at say a, a framework or some sort of, um, system, you can start even looking at things like, um, the ISO 45,003. So there's an international standard on, um, risk management, um, in relation to psychosocial hazards and risks. So, um, to be honest, if, if you wanna start somewhere, I'd probably jump on our website again, an understanding of what are psychosocial hazards and what are the risks and, and looking at controls and understanding risk assessment, the cuz that's really what underpins our legislation and will assist you with meeting your duties.
Awesome. Thank you so much for that in information. And it's great to hear that the people at work is more than just a tool that it has all those information resources there and, and that knowledge base to, for organizations and workplaces to start to learn how to address this. Uh, I might throw it over to our other panelists and see is, you know, are there any other hints or tips around resources that we can utilize? Yeah, I,
I I think I would just add to that, um, it's a very saturated space in terms of resources that are available out there. So I'd really just urge you to check the authority of the source for any resources that you access online. Um, there's a lot of pop psychology out there. Um, there's also in some instances a narrow application of clinical thinking to workplace environments that can sometimes mishi order and more effective ways to best ensure psych health and safety. Um, but in terms of what you need to do to comply, a great first source is the, the W Hs regulatory authorities. They've got great resources and linked to lots of the other resources. So in terms of, of that aspect, I would, um, encourage you to go there in the first instance, um, rather than some of the other, um, uh, um, places that at the moment there's, there's, there's a lot, there's a lot, um, out there that's available.
I, I think that's, uh, a couple of key things in there is one is, you know, absolutely making sure that the source is, is reputable and that the information is, is evidence based. And, and you, you mentioned a term in there, the, the narrow application of clinical psychology within the, the workplace that may miss a broader kind of systems based approach. Uh, I'm wondering for the audience, can you provide a, a practical example of what that might look like?
Yeah, so, um, we see a lot of workplaces when we go out and ask what, you know, what are you doing to manage the risk of social hazards? And they say, we've got an eap, um, so people can access clinical support when things go wrong. And we've got, we've brought a, a, a clinical person into, um, give people training about coping skills. Um, so very much focused on individual, um, individual thinking. The ways individual workers may respond to both prevent harm occurring in the way they respond, and also to get help when things go wrong. So it's not at all saying that these things aren't helpful and an important part of a risk control strategy, but they're absolutely, if you, if you look at what's in some of the model codes, they're classed as being, um, a, a, a lower order control, that that doesn't adequately manage the risk by preventing the hazard at the source. And that's something that, um, people with different training in organizational psychology or more holistic thinking around job design, um, have that kind of expertise.
Yeah, f fantastic. And I think that's a, a really great practical, uh, practical example, isn't it, because, um, I think a lot of organizations, you know, have the, the eap, um, at hand, and whilst that can be a really beneficial resource, it's not necessarily a addressing the risk. And so really thinking through how do we address the, the hazards from a, a prevention and, and early intervention approach as well. Uh, Elias, is there anything that you would like to, to add to this discussion?
Uh, look, I think, um, Tanya and Kirsten have covered it, um, quite well. Um, from my perspective as a lawyer, I love focusing on the legislation and definite things like codes, uh, but uh, that's me as a lawyer, but I, I think you, you do need to look at it holistically. So that's, that's where, um, uh, I think our website is a great place to start and then, and then seek advice, um, where, where you need it from professionals if needed.
All right. Thank you, Eli. So let's draw on that experience as a lawyer. We've, we've had a question that has come through the chat, uh, from Kylie. Um, she's indicated that she's found your definition of reasonably practical, very handy and useful and insightful. Um, however, is keen to understand a little bit more around what should the documentation process look like. Yeah. And should we be documenting that objective assessment as we work through those five different matters?
Yeah, thanks. Um, I look, yes. Um, the more you document, the more you can demonstrate what you've done and what you've considered and how you've considered it, Um, that doesn't mean if you haven't documented it, you can't explain it. But it's so very difficult to potentially years later explain, Oh, have we made these decisions and we decided this was reasonably practical for our workplace, and you're not not able then to properly express how you got to that point. So people often will have risk assessments and document those and then produce them. Um, but that, as I said before, that's just the start of the process in determining what's reasonably practical. So, and, and in fact, the risk assessment will just tell you what your assessment of the likelihood and a direct degree of harm was. It won't actually tell you what waiting consideration you then gave it.
You'll, you'll just have then control sitting, um, behind that risk assessment. And then you'll need to explain, well, how do we get to this point? So I would, I would urge everyone to consider, um, taking notes and, and even just taking the section and potentially putting some, um, notes against those. That's one way, um, you may come up with any number of ways to demonstrate how you came to a conclusion about what was reasonably practical for your workplace, uh, and for your particular psychosocial, um, hazards and risks. Uh, but I think, uh, documenting it makes it so much easy to replicate and explain what you did, um, at a often a much later date. And, uh, you know, my experience in prosecuting investigating, uh, is that, um, we'll pull everything apart and then, uh, and then critically analyze all of that. Uh, and then if there's to be a prosecution, we'll say you failed to do these certain things now, um, you, you may have an answer, but if you can't properly, um, explain what you did and, uh, then, then it's, it's very hard to actually, um, defend, um, proceeding in, in some cases where you may actually have done, um, what's reasonably able to be done and what's reasonably practical.
Um, so, um, as I said, I think the, the key is to make sure that you, um, have something that, um, is meaningful to you, um, but also something that you can demonstrate and demonstrate how you've complied with your duty.
Thank you so much, Alia. So absolutely hearing in there the, the criticality of documenting, uh, I guess the process and, and what, what has been through to, to make those decisions, um, a for, you know, if you need to demonstrate that into the future. Um, but they also to maybe help inform that decision making. And, and I think, you know, with my work and what I've seen is often, um, you know, in larger workplaces where, where people naturally turn over is that decisions are made, things are implemented, things are done. And, and within a couple of years the, the reasons why it's been done that way may be lost. And so having that, it's
Possible then to work backwards cause they're not there to explain it. Uh, so, you know, I think that's, that's why it is really helpful and really useful to have, um, have that information documented. And like I said, we do document risk assessments, but they're two, it's two factors and not all of the two factors in the, um, determination of what's reasonably practical.
Awesome. Thank you. Uh, Nicole, the, uh, sorry Tanya, the next question is for you from Nicole. Um, and Tanya is wanting to, correction. Nicole is wanting, Oh, I'm gonna go back and forth all day.
Mm, okay. Yeah. Well, that's a really good question. Thanks Nicole, for asking that. I'd firstly just wanna again, touch on something that Alia said. So when we're talking about assessment of risks, so hazard identification and assessing risks, if we are looking at the industry, so it's gotta be relevant for your workplace or the industry you're in, really think about, um, you know, looking at industry groups and getting that information on what are the sort of hazards that are prevalent in your type of industry. So for example, if you are in a, um, in a say a call center environment, let's have a think about what are the, what are the hazards that you might experience if you're in that environment? And, and a lot of that might be some of these psychosocial hazards. So some of those, um, perhaps abusive type calls or under time pressure or lack of control over how you perform your work rather than things like, um, hazardous chemicals or, or things like that.
So just have a think about when you're doing your risk assessment and identifying hazards, think about prioritizing what's actually relevant for the work you do do and the work environment in which you work. So, um, as an inspector, so the question was in relation to how, um, uh, one of the most common ones that we are seeing. So for, for a long time, I guess the, the prevalent, uh, while we look at, or the ones we see coming through are those event based ones that Kirsten elaborated on earlier. So things like work related bullying, work related violence and aggression. Um, but lately we've seen a lot more of, uh, sexual harassment type, um, complaints coming through. But interestingly, we are recognizing, and I think that's increasing that awareness over the last few years of those cumulative, um, psychosocial hazards. So we are seeing things like, uh, reports of, um, workers experiencing stress or burnout, and then we look at things like, um, those cumulative psychosocial hazards. So what's, what's causing that? So looking at their work demands and looking at the resources that are or are not available to assist them to perform their work in a safe way that's not stretching them so that they're, um, you know, getting unwell and suffering from that prolonged stress response.
Fantastic. So, uh, I guess a, a few really kind of key examples in there around prevalence of, uh, things like ova and, uh, the sexual harassment, um, type instances, but also a greater prevalence around the, the cumulative type hazards with, uh, work demands and, and resulting in, in injuries like burnout or, or time off work and those types of aspects. Um, I'm gonna have a follow up question there and, and pose. Do you think we're, you know, if we're thinking about some of more of those, um, kind of single event things like ova are, are we seeing an actual increase in the experience or are we seeing an increase in reporting and and injury?
Yeah, well, that's a good question. I think there's a, there's a, I guess different schools of thought as to whether it is something that, because we are more aware that this is something that is not, not the norm to experience at work. So certain, certain jobs, certain roles have a increased, I guess, risk of exposure to work related violence and aggression. So have a think about, you know, if you're, if you're a police officer or perhaps if you're an AM your worker as an ambulance person or maybe looking at hospitals, um, health services, those types of things, there's, there's that increased risk, um, or likelihood of, um, being exposed to work related violence and aggression. And I think in the past, um, often people say in, in those types of professions, even say, working with the elderly and you know, nurses, so the caring professions, they just think that this is just part of my job.
This is just normal, I have to put up with this because I, you know, it's, it's all about the patient, but the fact is, as a worker, you also have to, um, be able to work in, uh, a healthy and safe work environment and your employer needs to put in some sort of controls to minimize your exposure to these things. So I think it's an, it's a mixture of maybe, um, increased awareness as well as perhaps, um, uh, an increased prevalence because people are, I guess, increasingly stressed due to the fact that we've been going through, um, a pandemic for the last few years and there's been a lot of change that we haven't been able to keep up with or, or manage.
Absolutely. I think, you know, the, what's happening externally also has an impact on, on individual mental health and wellbeing. And I think about the, the pandemic and, you know, a lot of people walking around in, in their amygdala because we've just, uh, at that kind of heightened, uh, yeah, flight, flight response. Um, and I think you, you mentioned there that, you know, sometimes within certain job roles there's that sense of acceptance that this is just part of the job role. Mm-hmm. Um, and one of the other things that I've seen in that space is with that acceptance is, Oh, we managed it well, so therefore we're not going to report it. Mm-hmm. Yet there was still that exposure to, to that particular risk. Yeah. Um, we've had another question that has come through from Kylie and she's asking, you know, what are the, some of the expectations for managing psychosocial hazards for, for small businesses? Um, so Tanya, would you like to take that one?
Yeah, sure. So, um, as a Elias was mentioning before, so when we talk about the reasonably practical part of the legislation, it does actually take into account your particular circumstance, workplace work environment. And while the, uh, small business operator does have those duties, it is, um, I guess looking proportionately as to the, the scale of the business. So if we are looking at, uh, you know, say a a to a, a husband and wife operation and maybe they've got one or two, um, employees, the robustness of the systems that they're gonna have in place is probably not going to be the same as a large corporation with hundreds of employees. However, there are still things that a small business owner can do to manage the psychosocial hazards and risks. And we do have guidance available on our website that specifically is tailored for the small businesses to look at how to manage those psychosocial hazards and risks. So I'd encourage you to have a look at that because it, it kind of, uh, looks at the duties and sort of puts them into perspective for the smaller size businesses.
Fantastic. So a absolutely the, the same obligation to be providing a, a safe workplace however, you know, looking at how, what, what is reasonably practical within that environment and, and some specific advice and guidance for small businesses out there. Uh, we've had another question that has come through from Rhonda, uh, which is a, a great one. One given the, a lot of organizations who, uh, might be office space have hybrid work at the moment where people might be working from home or also in the workplace. And the question comes, how do you manage the, the physical and mental health hazards when your workforce is working in that hybrid work environment? How do you work out the line of what's work related and what's personal when working from home?
Everyone's looking at me, but I feel like this is a, this is a legal, feels like this is a legal question,
Yeah. Look, I think, um, it's pretty clear it's a workplace. So if someone's working from home, uh, it's a workplace. So the organization really needs to treat it that way. So, um, the, the workplace will not end then at the, at the office doors, um, if people are working from home. So I think it's as simple as that really to then say, well, uh, what, uh, provisions am I gonna make for that particular work? Who's working from home? Um, because I'm treating that area that they're working as a workplace and that, um, it's physical environment, but also psychosocial environment as well for that person. And, uh, just what, um, again, coming back through the factors, and I won't, um, I won't kill you again with, uh,
And, and if it's helpful, there's some, um, helpful research on boundary management, boundary management theory that talks about, you know, what are the boundaries between work and home that people create? And they can be temporal, they can be physical, they can be psychological. So all of these things, um, if you think about it in terms of the psychosocial hazards, in terms of what might increase the risk when people are working from home, it might be that they have greater demands, um, because they can work, the boundaries are more permeable and they can work much longer hours if they choose to. Um, and that comes to the psychosocial hazard of control. Like, it's good that they've got the control to decide when and where they, they work. So what it means really for employer employee relationships and manager, um, worker relationships, is that these conversations need to be overt, need to actually sit down and talk about these things. Talk about it with, with the psychosocial hazard framework, you know, for you while you're working at home, um, are you perceiving more or less or any of these, and how can we, um, manage those in a way that, that, you know, you're thriving at work and not not struggling.
Can I add something to that as well? Um, just when you think about the blurring those boundaries and, and the work life sort of balance when you're working from home or working remotely. So when we think about remote and isolated work, which essentially if you're in a truck or if you're, you know, your job is, you know, out on a, a mine somewhere or whether you're at home, you are essentially remote and isolated because you're not in a, an a usual, um, traditional sense of, of a work environment as in a workplace where there's other people around. So what you've gotta think about as an employer is, so how am I keeping that worker engaged? What are the processes that I have in place to actually ensure that they're okay, because while they're at work and they're not under your supervision directly, how do I know that they're okay?
So thinking about the systems that you can put in place, and I'd suggest things like checking to see, um, I guess do you have some sort of, um, workplace agreement that they can look, you can look at the, the office setup or the environment where they're working, and you can check on that and keep a record of that looking at the hours of work. So have an agreement about these are the hours within, uh, a day that I'm gonna work, and I'm not gonna work outside of these. Making sure that you, um, encourage your workers to, you know, have some sort of teams or a Zoom meeting daily. So a check in. Um, and it's about making, um, making sure that the worker is still, uh, feeling included, because if they're not, then that can also obviously introduce some other, um, psychosocial hazards and risks. Loneliness. Loneliness, That's right. Not feeling engaged or connected. Mm-hmm.
Absolutely. So I think it sounds like there, you know, whilst, uh, work at home, Home is very much a workplace, there are a number of unique considerations that we need to apply a as that environment when we're starting to think about managing psychosocial risks and hazards within the home. And, and I think true to a, you know, a couple of practical examples where I've seen organizations struggle is, for example, call center workers working from home and, and managing a distressed or vulnerable caller or an angry caller, and thinking through, well, how do we ensure that those support systems that you would have if you are office based, are available to you at home? And you can have that immediate support if required or, or thinking through how do we create that social connection, which can be such a, a key determinant of resilience in that, such a protective factor within the workplace. So thinking through some of those practical activities of how we start to manage that within the home play, uh, within home. Um, we've kind of got one last question from, uh, the audience. And Cassie has asked, Could you provide an example of the holistic approach instead of the more direct individual, uh, approach, uh, for example, the eap? So Kirsten might throw that one over to you to answer in the first instance.
Yeah. So, uh, um, because this topic's about regulating for psychosocial hazards, I'm gonna come back to something that's enshrined in the regulation. Tell me what if I get this wrong in terms of which provision, but it's this notion of a hierarchy of control. So what it, um, uh, argues is that, um, in terms of the types of controls that are most effective, that should be considered, they should be considered hierarchically. Um, and so what if you apply that to psychosocial hazards, the, the top of the hierarchy of control is around work, is good work design, and good systems of work, um, that that mean that the psychosocial hazards are designed out so workers aren't, um, exposed to them at all. And the lower end of the hierarchy of controls are things that focus on employee, um, uh, training, support, um, ppe. So in, in terms of OK violence, that might be things like, you know, um, screen screens that stop, stop, um, stop people from being able to, um, you know, physically attack someone.
Um, so certainly, um, EAPs, your employee assistance providers or, or counseling services for employees tend to be the low hanging fruits fruit that employers go for first. And it's an important foundation, but it's a foundation and those higher order controls need to happen as well. Um, things like, uh, leadership training, um, absolutely the work that we've been doing about, um, root nodes that cascade down, one of them is about supervisor and leader, um, skills, abilities, their hidden work designers in how they allocate work, how they monitor work, their critical part of, um, the picture in terms of some of those higher order controls.
Awesome. Thank you so much for, for that insight. And, you know, really thinking through what are those different strategies that workplaces can start to think through for taking that holistic approach? Um, I, I'd like to kind of close out the panel now with, uh, uh, one top key takeaway from each of our panelists. Uh, so Tanya, I'm gonna go over to you first.
So there's been a lot of information sort of shared with everyone today, and it's, it, there's a lot to consider, but from my perspective, um, if you are really looking at managing psychosocial hazards and risks within your work environment, then you really need to be talking to your workers to understand, um, and build that relationship with them so that they feel comfortable and safe to be able to approach you and tell you what's going on with them. Because if you don't have that good rapport and you don't consult with your workers, um, you're also not discharging your duties, but you're also not finding out what's going on. And if you don't know what's going on, you can't manage or do anything to change that or improve things for your workers. And that can also affect, um, your business, um, productivity, and it can lead to things like, um, harm and it can lead to, um, you know, a turnover, high turnover of your workforce, which ultimately costs money. So key is consultation.
So I guess I'll go next
All right. For me, uh, it, it won't be any surprise to anybody is to follow the section, follow section 18 to work out what's reasonably able to be done for your workplace discussed earlier that may be systems, but Kirsten explained it might also be a redesign of the workplace. It may be physical changes to your workplace to manage that psychosocial risk, But for me, as a lawyer, the section gives you the answer
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