Dr Carlo Caponecchia explores elements of work design, how it fits within work health and safety practice, and why it should be the primary strategy for organisations to use when improving mental health at work.
Chris Bombolas: G'day everyone, I'm Chris Bombolas. Welcome to our special presentation on behalf of Workplace Health and Safety.
I'd like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet today, and pay my respects to their Elders past, present, and emerging. I'd like to extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples watching today.
Little bit of housekeeping, if you have any technical problems, please make sure the sound on your computer is turned on, and try refreshing your browser. If that doesn't work, contact us via the Q&A chat box on the right of your screen. You can also make this presentation full screen by selecting the four small arrows next to the volume bar at the bottom of your screen.
Today's presentation includes references to mental health at work. If you or someone you know is struggling, please remember there is support available. A number of support contacts are on your screen, and we'll also pop them into the chat. Remember you can call Lifeline at any time on 13 11 14. To get help and support in an emergency, please call 000 or go to your local hospital. Lifeline is also available, as I said, at any time on 13 11 14. You can call the Workers' Psychological Support Service on 1800 370 732. For further contacts visit www.qmhc.qld.gov.au/emergency-contacts.
Time now to introduce you to today's speaker, Dr Carlo Caponecchia. Carlo is an academic at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. He has a background in psychology and works in human factors and safety. Carlo has a particular interest and expertise in psychosocial risks and safe systems of work. Today Carlo will explore elements of work design, how it fits within work health and safety practice and why it should be the primary strategy for organisations to use when improving mental health at work.
Remember, if you have any questions for Carlo today, please type them into the Q&A chat box on the right of your screen. We'll either ask those during his presentation or at the end. Time now to cross to Sydney and welcome in Carlo.
Dr Carlo Caponecchia: Thanks so much, Chris. Hi everyone, it's great to be with you and it's really great to be able to speak with you in safety month about this really important category of hazards and what we should be doing about them. So I'm gonna be talking a lot about work redesign today. I think we have my slides available. I'm not sure if you're seeing them yet. There we go, excellent. So I'm gonna be talking about work redesign, talking a little bit about what psych hazards are and then moving to what we should do about them. And you can get in touch with me at the details there via LinkedIn, should you have further questions or wish to connect.
There's really four main areas that I wanna talk with you about today. Firstly, what psychosocial hazards are and how do we get to where we are, where this is really a sort of hot button issue in safety right now. What are organisations typically doing to respond to these at the moment? What are the barriers to improvement? And then some examples of work design and threaded throughout all of these is gonna be the idea of needing to do work redesign as the key control for psychosocial risks. So we're gonna have a look at some really simple examples as well.
As Chris said, I'm very happy to take questions as we go, but I will leave some time at the end to have some questions and I look forward to those. I think they're often the most important part of webinars like this.
So let's get started. Where I really wanted to start was to talk about how, though we have new guidance, the duties on psychosocial risk are actually old. We've been doing this work now for decades. And so it should come as absolutely no surprise to any organisation that psychosocial hazards and then managing the risks that they present is part of workplace health and safety.
It's been in the general duties for a very long time and it's become recently more explicit or more detailed in regulation and with the codes of practice that have been released of course in Queensland and in many other states around the country. In fact, all other states except Victoria yet. It will happen in Victoria on a, we're not exactly sure when, but it will happen there too.
So I just wanted to spend a little time talking about how we got to this point where psych risks are absolutely front and centre in work health and safety. And I'm gonna argue that that's a really good thing because I think psych risks, psych hazards and psych risks are actually helping to push us forward in all aspects of safety. But how did we get here? It's been a long road and sometimes it feels like we're not moving very far or very quickly but it's important to reflect on what were the small steps that led us there.
Of course, we've had patterns of compensated injury as I'm just showing the slide at the moment, patterns of compensated injury that have suggested that the mental stress category has been, the fourth most common mechanism of injury in Australia for many years now. And of course results in the highest payouts and the longest time off work. We've gotta be careful of those fears because of course not everyone who's injured gets compensated, not everyone's eligible, not everyone applies. So if anything, patterns of compensated injury are an underestimation of what's actually going on.
At the same time, we've had national guidance on bullying since about 2013 and state-based guidance on bullying from the early 2000s. We've had the Fair Work Commission powers since the inquiry in 2012 and the powers commencing in 2014.
It's important to note that there's been, community awareness has really been raised about exposure to harmful issues at work and social movements like Me Too and Black Lives Matter, which has really focused people on the notion of not accepting being exposed to sources of harm at work. And that's been a really important development. While external to work, it's nonetheless affecting the acceptability or lack of acceptability of exposure to these kinds of things in the community. And hence regulation is pushed forward as well by that activity.
We've had tripartite guidance since 2019. From Safe Work Australia, guidance on psychosocial risks, still really important document, which has influenced the development of the international standard. We had the Boland Review from 2018, which of course is where the major recommendation of moving psych hazards into the reg came from. And that's now been enacted in most states along with the amended reg and new codes of practice.
And there's an international standard, international and now adopted in Australia. So that slide really should say AS/ISO45003. So this is the child standard of 45001, the Occ Health Safety Management System standard, which is providing guidance on managing psychosocial risks within your occupational health and safety management system. And also the regulations and codes of practice, which have been put into place in 2022 to 23 in different states around the country.
So lots of steps over a long period of time, all pointing in one direction at the end of the road there, which is that psych hazards are an absolutely central part of modern health and safety practice. So it's been a long road and an important one. And the arguments that we used to have about whether this was really part of safety are kind of resolved or dissolved perhaps is the better term.
The essential requirements in the developments that we've had, if we try and really boil it down to a couple of ideas is that you have to manage psychosocial risks in the same way as you manage every other type of risk. Now, if we wanted to summarise the code of practice or the reg in one sentence, I think that'd be close to it. No one would be really happy with that idea, but let's try and keep things simple. Manage psych risks in the same way as you manage every other type of risk. That means you need to know what those hazards are and what to do about them.
So let's move on to talk about that. Here's the formal definition of psych hazards on the left here. ''Aspects of job content, work organisation, management, environmental and organisational conditions have the potential for psychological and physical harm.'' Sounds like a mouthful, but I've tried to pull out those key elements over on the right-hand side here. Job content, work organisation, work management, environmental conditions and organisational conditions.
The reason I pull those out is because essentially everything that we need to know about psych hazards is contained there in those coloured boxes. Those are the things we need to look for when we're at it. And those are the things that guide us in terms of our risk controls.
So when we're wanting to do work redesign as the key control for psych risks, we want to be thinking about what's in the job, what's the content of it, what are the tasks, what's happening, how is work organised, how is it managed, what conditions is the work performed in and what's going on in the organisation in terms of culture and change and hierarchies and structures. So everything we really need to know about psych hazards is there in the definition. So if people are looking for a simple way through, that's it, go back to the basics of the definition. It tells you what to look for and what to do.
I've also put the definition here from WorkSafe Queensland because I think it's a really good definition. It's really nice and simple. And I'm advocating you go back to basics, go back to definitions. ''Psych hazards are anything in the design or management of work that increase the risk of psychological or physical harm.'' That element of psychological or physical harm is actually really important. So psych hazards are not just having psychological effects, what we might call psychological effects. Remembering of course, that psychological effects are physical. You don't wanna go into a dualistic kind of area here. But physical harm is caused as well by psychosocial hazards.
Probably one way to make that more concrete is that, one of the symptoms that people often get after they've been exposed to psych hazards at work is nausea on the way to work. So feeling sick on the way to work. Nausea is something that we typically associate with being a physical symptom. It's not just about what you ate the night before. It can be influenced by what you've been exposed to.
And the Queensland Code of Practice has some really nice information that helps to explain how the stress response is the mechanism by which exposure to psych hazards can have an effect on health. So how it relates to harm. How exposure relates to harm. And so I really do recommend that you have a good look at the Code.
So we talked about the definition of psych hazards, and then typically we talk about, well, what are some of the examples? And so I've given you a bunch of examples here. Different documents talk about the examples differently, because they're examples, right? We've got to get to a point where we're okay with reading different words that mean the same kind of thing about these examples. Some documents will give you the valence. They'll say, you know, high or low. So, you know, high workload. Here I haven't put the valence in, but it's kind of assumed there. But with workload, of course, it can be high or low workload, there can be a concern.
So they're expressed slightly differently in different documents, but that's the case for all kinds of hazards. We've just got to get more comfortable with that, I think. The ones here that people really get tripped up on are job control. So people often think that that means giving people complete control of their job. It doesn't, it just means that, you know, giving people some, what we used to call decision latitude, some ability to make some decisions about what work they do, how they do the work, when they do the work, who they do it with, some kind of sense of control over how that works can be really useful for reducing the impact of a lack of control.
And often that's solved really through consultation. The other one people get tied up with is role ambiguity and role conflict. Role ambiguity is the idea of not quite knowing where your role starts and stops and where others take over. And role conflict is where roles are having, where in a job or a role, there are requirements that are in conflict with one another.
The classic example is a call centre worker, where a call centre worker is told to provide excellent customer service, but not to spend too long on the phone. See how there's a conflict there.
Yeah, the other one to mention here, of course, is bullying, violence, harassment, discrimination. Some people think that when we say psych risks, that that's all we're talking about, that we're only talking about bullying and harassment. Bullying, harassment, violence, discrimination are all separate. They're included as one example here. They're all separate. They have different criteria for them. And they're one of many psych hazards to which people can be exposed. So let's not fall into the trap of thinking that psych hazards equals bullying and harassment. And I'm happy to talk in our discussion and questions later about any of these that people would like more examples of or more clarification of.
So let's move to thinking about how organisations are responding to this issue of having to treat psych hazards as part of their health and safety duties. What are most organisations doing? Our research that we've been doing recently and other related research is indicating that most organisations are implementing stress management training, awareness training, mental health awareness kind of promotional activities, mindfulness training, very common, resilience training, and wellbeing programs, which could be a range of things from something called a wellbeing program to health promotion, to exercise, yoga. It can have all sorts of inclusions under that sort of umbrella.
These things are fine in as far as they go. However, they're very individually focused. And typically in health and safety, we don't focus on fixing individuals. Our task is to deal with the sources of harm that are originating in and under the control of the organisation. So it's not about just making people get better at dealing with bad stuff. That's not the way to go. And it's not a safety intervention.
The analogy I typically use, and the reason why there's a cake on this slide is that these kinds of interventions are like the icing on the cake. No amount of icing fixes a bad cake. People like to argue about that. Lots of people like icing. No amount of icing fixes a bad cake. Organisations have to make the cake better. They have to design the work better. That's where organisations need to focus.
Once they've done that, once they've fixed all those things we talked about under the definition of psych hazards, of work organisation, management, environmental conditions, organisational conditions and work tasks. Once they've done all of that, well then let's go with the icing. Let's have all of it, right? Then you can do the icing. Then you can embellish. But first, deal with the sources of harm.
I think it's also important to do that little test that we sometimes use in safety, where we think about what would we do for other hazards? For example, with noise, would we expect people to just go to a training course to get better at dealing with noise? We would never do that. And so why would we do that with psychosocial risks, which can happen to anyone, anywhere, no matter what job they're doing, no matter where they're working, no matter what equipment they're using. Psych risks are everywhere, everywhere that humans are employed. There's a potential for psych risks. So it's sometimes useful to do that kind of analysis of, well, would we do this approach for other kinds of hazards? And in safety, typically we wouldn't.
We were talking about what organisations are doing and how we need to move to work redesign. And what I was talking about was how this little model of work redesign that I was sharing on the slides, was a Lotus model talking about the overlapped elements of work redesign from processes and systems, equipment and resources, people, tasks, and the physical environment, which really lines up nicely with the elements of psychosocial hazards that we were talking about in the definition. We're gonna talk a little bit more, a little later, about some examples of work redesign aligned with those elements of that Lotus model.
So what I thought we'd move to now is just briefly talking about some of the barriers to improvement. What are the things that are holding us back in terms of moving towards work redesign for psychosocial risks and really embracing psychosocial risks as a key part of work health and safety practice? And I've really got four, no, five main things I wanted to talk about there really briefly.
The first is misconceptions around mental health, issues in terminology, understanding the hazards and how they interact, thinking about who's responsible for all of this and knowing which controls to focus on. So we talk about each of those just really briefly. We still, the first one there, mental health misconceptions, we still have a lot of stigma around mental health.
A lot of organisations are still thinking that when we say psychosocial risk, that we're talking about managing people with mental ill health. We're not, that's not what this is about. Managing experiences of mental health may, is really important and something that organisations need to support through external support services, internal support, as well as flexibility and other kinds of activities like that.
But managing psychosocial risk is about managing the sources of harm in the business. That's what the focus is. And it's important to know where organisations need to focus and what they don't need to do, right? So it's about managing what's going on in the organisation. We've got to really escalate how we understand mental ill health experiences, how they are dynamic. Anyone can have mental ill health at any time. It changes, changes with life experience, it changes with treatment. And so becoming more aware of that is really very important. Knowing what organisations have to manage and what they don't, it's important for improving how we manage psychosocial risks at work.
Terminology is still a barrier. A lot of people are still confused by terms like psychosocial. Psychosocial, psychological, as well as the term mental ill health. Incidentally, as I was involved in writing the new international standard, ISO45003, I actually didn't use the term mental health. We used it once and only in the introduction and it just says some people use the term mental health. That was a decision that was made because it's a term that comes with a lot of baggage, that has a lot of different connotations for people. And so we just decided not to use it.
I guess the main thing I'd say to people about terminology is to make a decision in the organisation about which terms you're going to use. What's your umbrella term? Is it mental health? Is it psychosocial risk? Is it wellbeing? You know, I think it should be psychosocial risk. But organisations choose all sorts of umbrella term. And then what's your hazard term? What do you use when you talk about hazards? What do you use when you talk about risks? What term do you use when you talk about outcomes? Outlining those terms under those categories can be really useful for helping you to use terms consistently. That's what's really important, keeping everyone on board and keeping your communications clear.
One of the things that's emphasised in the regulation and in the code of practice and in the new standard is how hazards interact. So we're moving away from the idea of focusing on one singular hazard and recognising, of course, that hazards interact with one another, not just psychosocial risks and psychosocial risks, but psychosocial risks and all kinds of hazards. So it's a much more systemic view rather than just one hazard on a line of a risk matrix. That's really very important. Knowing who's responsible, typically this is a notion of whether this is HR or WHS.
The answer is, of course, that it's both and it's everyone. We're gonna talk about how everyone designs work. And we've already talked a little bit about which controls to focus on. We should be focusing on controls that address sources of harm, as we would do with any other kind of hazard. Remember we said at the beginning, do for psychosocial risks what you do for every other kind of hazard? Well, you focus on controlling the source of harm at the source as far as reasonably practicable rather than only doing controls that are, or strategies that are focused on individuals. Yeah, so that's some of the barriers that have an effect on improved management of psychosocial risks.
I've put some information here just about the basic risk management process. I don't think that it's a waste to reflect on this. The things in risk management that are forgotten about are the communication and consultation that's meant to come at all stages. And the other one, we focus on identification assessment control, but the other one of context, understanding who we are, what we do, why we do it, what the influences on our business are, is actually really important. You can't do good risk management without understanding context. And so I always focus on understanding context so that we can have tailored risk management.
Psychosocial risks is really forcing people to understand what they do. There's no singular set of controls that you need to use. You're the experts in your business. You need to find out what the controls that work for you are and how to implement them for the particular context you're in. And risk assessment for psychosocial risks should be consistent with your organisation's existing approach.
This is a question I get asked a lot. Do we have to have a separate process for psych risks? I don't think so. You need to embed it within the existing system that you have. Focusing on scenarios is really useful for psych risks rather than trying to do your risk assessment on workload. Think about the scenario, the scenario in a particular work group or a particular location and how you might manage risks there. All of the psychosocial risks in that scenario is very useful.
And there's some really good guidance available, for example, from the Corporate Mental Health Alliance of Australia, about understanding what tools might be useful. There's a lot of tools in psych risk management. They're not for everyone. You may or may not need them, but there's some guidance available there that can help you with the considerations of how do I evaluate this tool versus that tool? How do I plan what I'm gonna do? Whether I'm gonna use these tools at all.
What I am finding is that psych risks is helping organisations to reflect on their entire risk management approach for all kinds of hazards. And that's something to be really hopeful about. It's a really great thing that we're getting people to reflect on how they manage all kinds of risks.
So I'm gonna move quickly now. We're pushing against time, to some work redesign examples. I was gonna get some feedback from you on these, but we might just have time to do one really quick example before we wrap up and go to questions, I think. Remember that everyone designs work, you all design work. Don't be scared of it. You're already doing it. You've designed work for yourself and for others already. It's about small changes that can address psych risks. Things like workflows, reporting lines, competencies, software interfaces, support networks, physical barriers as well. Let's not forget physical interventions and cross-skilling of people.
And importantly, work redesign doesn't just have benefits for psych risk, but it has benefits for efficiency and satisfaction and retention. It's a no-brainer to do work redesign. It's good for business as well as helping you meet your duties to manage psych risks. So we should be reaching out for this with both hands and with excitement.
So here's a scenario that I thought I'd put to you and give you some ideas about the kinds of things I'd think about, just ideas that I'd throw out, that I'd consider for work redesign. I'll read through it kind of quickly and we'll move to that. So this is a scenario in a large financial services firm.
They've recently engaged a third-party provider. That's interesting because, you know, the procurement and supply chain issues are something that's been called out in some of the codes of practice and certainly in the standard in terms of how that can affect psych risks. So it's an important one. If you're interested in that, go and have a look in those documents about that.
So they've engaged a third-party provider to arrange travel for staff, including the payment of travel, checking compliance, insurance and bookings. The organisation's very short-staffed, everyone's overworked, overtime's increased. They've got data that indicates that email traffic related to making travel arrangements has really increased recently. Staff feedback indicates they're frustrated with the online travel portal, which is not intuitive, and therefore they're asking for assistance by email. The system requires basic demographic information to be entered several times. So it's creating a lot of work and frustration.
Assistance from the third-party provider is delayed because their headquarters is in another time zone. The staff are assisted by a different person each time. So each time they email or call, they're getting someone different to help them. They've made 12 training videos to help people to use this system. You can imagine how well they've been viewed. Ask yourself about how you use training videos for new procedures like that. Staff have become frustrated at the time taken to get travel booked and the inability to book it themselves. Some of the senior staff have expressed feeling that the company doesn't trust them, that they're being suspected almost by default of misconduct.
No one's put in a hazard report, but complaints indicating an impact on workload have been received. So the hazards here are really around workload and around perceptions of trust. But I think it's really mainly about the workload and control as well, not being able to have a say in how this works for them in an environment that's understaffed and already pretty stressed.
So what are some of the design considerations here? Because there's some simple things that we could think about. And I've tried to tie these to the elements of the work redesign model. We could think about changing the procedure for travel booking. Perhaps there's some ways in which people can book it themselves rather than going to the external provider, which might help with that issue of control and feeling that they're not trusted.
So there may be some ways to tweak that. In terms of equipment and resources, can we have a look at the booking or approval interface in terms of its usability? What usability testing was done? Could we refine that or adapt that in consultation with staff so it doesn't need 12 training videos? I mean, anything that needs 12 training videos to help people to use it, I think is a bit of a question mark, right? Things should be designed to be intuitive and easy. It's like having to put notes around your system of how you haven't designed it well yet, right?
Of course, it'd be exceptions to that. I'm not saying never have a training manual, but a booking system should be fairly intuitive. Consider advantages of enabling people to book their own travel. So we talked about this before. Remembering that these elements of work design, of course, overlap. You don't have to have a design strategy for every element. How that might increase perceptions of control and reduce the time taken. Explore ways to have business partners at the third-party provider for a more seamless customer service so people are not getting assisted by a different person every single time they call or for the same trip every single, every different day. And simplifying the number of tasks.
Exploring communication mechanisms that don't rely on email and that draw data from existing systems so that people don't have to re-enter basic information each time. Small, technologically enabled redesign considerations across several of these elements. So, you know, it might take a while to implement that. I'm not saying this will necessarily be easy, but there's a range of design, work redesign interventions that we could consider, work on, think about how they're going to work and plan who's gonna be responsible for them and the timeframe in which they're done.
I think we're gonna just move on to wrap up so we can have some questions. I had a few more scenarios, but just some things to note. You're already a designer. Don't be scared of work design. You're designing work now already. It's good to have a number of different design strategies and brainstorm through them and prioritise them. It's good to think about the change logic. How is the design working? Why is it gonna work? Which hazards is that design going to address? And importantly, what are the key things that you need to have happen? What are the necessary factors for success? Is it gonna need some training? Is it gonna need some support? It's gonna need some resources?
That helps you with your evaluation because if you implement something and you didn't have the necessary conditions in place, well, it's not gonna work and that's why. It's not because it was a bad design. It's because you didn't have the necessary factors in place. So thinking about that change logic, how and why things are gonna work is really important when you're planning work redesign. And then of course, you've gotta move to specifying responsibilities and timeframes.
I'm gonna wrap up here, before going to some quick questions, by saying that a focus on psych risks and work redesign has wider benefits. It's making organisations reflect on their existing risk management practices for all risks. That's certainly what I'm seeing when I talk to all kinds of organisations. And it's encouraging a more systems view of work and hazards and controls due to the focus on systems of work and the interaction of hazards. That's absolutely critical in how we're looking at psych risks. And why I'm encouraged by that is that psych risks are helping us to evolve workplace health and safety practice to that much more systemic view. It's a little more sophisticated, but it's taking account of the complexity of work and how things interact. And that is what's gonna help us continually improve. So I might stop there, Chris, and we may have some questions in the chat.
Chris Bombolas: Definitely do. And we've had some very positive feedback, Carlo, and comments. For example, "This is 100% the session we need." So that's really good. And we've had a number of questions and I'd like to remind our audience that if you do have a question, go to the Q&A chat box on the right of your screens, get that question in, and we'll try and answer as many as we can, including this one from Amy, Carlo. Amy would like to know, when talking about wellness programs, et cetera, are organisations using flexible working options too? For example, working from home, working from distributed work centres.
Dr Carlo Caponecchia: Sometimes that is included under wellness or wellbeing. Sometimes not. I think it really varies. I think flexible work really evolved as a separate issue to wellbeing during COVID. So I think that organisations use it differently. Some see it as part of wellbeing. Some just see it as part of, some see flexible work as just part of what we have to do now. Some see it indeed as part of diversity and inclusion, that we have flexible work so that we can really facilitate caring responsibilities, for example. So I think where it fits really changes. It's very important, yeah.
Chris Bombolas: Just following up on that, as a result of COVID and working from home, are we dealing better with things like isolation and people feeling not connected to an organisation, and how can we overcome that sort of stuff?
Dr Carlo Caponecchia: Yeah, I have started to see a bit of that being reported, that some businesses are downsized now to the point where it's hard to get a desk at work, or it's not just desks, but a space to work. And so I think there is still an issue of isolation and feeling disconnected from teams, particularly if someone is new to an organisation and doesn't have that pre-existing social interaction that may have existed when we had more face-to-face work.
So I think it depends on the kind of industry, but certainly some organisations are still experiencing difficulties with people being isolated, disconnected, unable to have that kind of social support from teams. So it is still a real challenge. It's related to that flexibility issue, right? So a lot of organisations now have flexibility policies that talk about making sure that things are, face-to-face things are organised on the same day to make the best of people's time. I mean, I don't like coming to work and just being on online meetings when I'm in the office. What's the point, right? So trying to schedule things so that people can have that interaction with several events all at once to make it really worthwhile to be there in person.
Chris Bombolas: Thanks, Carlo. And our thanks to Nerida and all the others who have joined us and thrown in a question. And Nerida would like to know, my workplace doesn't want to send out surveys to staff, but have the work health and safety officer and HR officer talk to the head of different departments. Not sure which department or group to start with and how to do that. Do I use a risk assessment template?
Dr Carlo Caponecchia: Really good question. Depends what it is that you're trying to do. Surveys are not the answer to everything. Remember that. It's important to use the data that you already have as well. And the stuff that you already just know, you likely know where there are particular hazards. I don't think you need to use a risk template if you're just going out to do consultation about hazards. So it depends on your purpose. And I don't know if I've really quite got enough context from that question, Chris, sorry.
So it depends on your purpose. But yeah, I mean, if the purpose was to be doing a risk assessment eventually based on that information, I'd be collecting as much information as you could from those kind of interviews or focus groups and then putting the risk assessment together independent of those conversations so that you can get a broader look. Depending of course on the scope of your risk assessment, whether you're doing a risk assessment in one particular work group or location, or whether you're trying to do a sort of enterprise-wide risk assessment. So I think that's a pretty complex question. There's a lot in that one, Chris.
Chris Bombolas: Fair enough. And well-responded. Mia would like to know, with so many psychological hazards in one organisation, how best to communicate the changes that are needed to management?
Dr Carlo Caponecchia: Hmm. Interestingly, I get that question a lot. How do I communicate this to senior managers? I think there's a few different strategies to use there. Depending on your industry and the relationships with senior management, one strategy is to talk about duties.
"There's a new reg. There's a new code of practice. There's no arguments. You gotta do this. And you gotta know this stuff as part of your due diligence." Senior managers who are officers need to know what these hazards are. And so one of the things I often say, I can't remember if I said it today. I don't think I did. But when we're talking about those examples of hazards, I often say, you know, if you're an officer, you need to be able to talk about these hazards in the same way as you could talk about noise or asbestos or hazardous manual tasks.
And if you can't talk about those, well, then we've got an even bigger problem, right? But you can use those examples of hazards as almost a bit of a litmus test of where people are at. And sort of say, well, if you don't know about these, then we've got a due diligence problem. We need to do some competency development.
So that would be one strategy there. You know, I don't think that it's always the right strategy to go into outcomes and to talking about people who've got mental ill health outcomes. Cause that's not what we're talking about managing, right? We're talking about the need for senior managers and officers to manage hazards that they're responsible for that happened through work organisation. And so I think really focusing on what those hazards are is an important first step.
Chris Bombolas: Okay, Kerry here asks, are you able to explain how risk appetite could enhance or limit embracing work redesign?
Dr Carlo Caponecchia: Sure, I mean, some organisations will just say, "Eh, we're just gonna ride this out and see what happens." I think that smart organisations are getting on board with work redesign because it has massive potential benefits way beyond psych risks. Like you should be doing work redesign anyway. Even if you're asleep to psychosocial risks, you should be thinking about ways to redesign work to make it better.
So I think it's also important to not try and make this too complicated. You should be doing this anyway. So even if you can't convince people that they've got to manage psych risks, they're supposed to be making the business more efficient. They're supposed to be making it a better experience, even if you're forgetting about psychological harm. So I think there are lots of different ways of running the arguments on this and they're all leading in the same direction.
Chris Bombolas: Can I then ask a question without notice, following up from that, and you spoke during your presentation, Carlo, about emails may not necessarily be the right form of communication nor surveys, but we're in the midst of redesigning, how do we communicate across an organisation, particularly if it's a big organisation and we have a mix of young, middle aged, older workers who all use different forms of communication, have different attention spans, but we wanna get that same all encompassing message across.
Dr Carlo Caponecchia: Well, I think that the communication has to be multimodal. Don't rely on one form of communication. Make sure you have a consistent message, which is similar to what I was saying about terminology. Decide how you're gonna talk about it and talk about it in multiple ways. Put it in your newsletters, put it in your video addresses, put it in your emails, follow it up in your town hall talks, follow it up at your safety meetings, your toolbox talks.
Change the message slightly to be right for the different communication methods, but I don't think that's different to what we do for any other issue. We should be communicating about safety in all sorts of different ways, noticing how, taking into account how people prefer to get information in different ways and how they need information in different ways, given cultural and linguistic diversity and numeracy and literacy, et cetera. So diversity of approaches is always the way to go with any safety communication.
Chris Bombolas: Nicole would like to know, when do we need to use the ISO45003 standard and how does it compare with, say, the code and regulations?
Dr Carlo Caponecchia: Sure, great question. So ISO45003 is a guidance standard that pairs with ISO45001, which is the Occ Health Safety Management Systems standard. So those documents are not part of requirements, they're voluntary. Some organisations will choose to use those and choose to be accredited to 45001 because that's how they structure their occ health safety management system. Some organisations are contractually required to certify to 45001, but not everyone does. Some organisations use 45001 as a guide for their occ health safety management system without doing so formally.
And essentially, though, any business that has an occ health safety management system and most do, they're all influenced by 45001 in a sort of trickle-down effect, right? It becomes the norm of how we do occ health safety management systems. So 45003 is there as guidance, so it's additional to 45001. It's like, sometimes call it a child standard. And so it's up to the organisation to decide how and when to use that based on what they're already doing and the environment in which they're in, how they're using 45001. In terms of how it relates to the reg and the code, well, it's quite different. The reg you have to do, the code guides you on the reg, and the standard is guidelines for your occ health safety management system. So they're different.
Depending on your situation, the standard can certainly help you to organise and document your activities that are consistent with the requirements in the reg and the code, but they're not 100% aligned. They've been developed for different purposes. I think that's the key point, to understand what the different purpose is of the documents. They can certainly help you though. The standards can certainly help you with your requirements. But you need to look at everything, and a key part of any standard is looking at your legislative requirements and other requirements, and it directs you to do that.
Chris Bombolas: And as we wrap up our session, Carlo, one last question, it just happens to come from me. Why do organisations now have to manage the impact of external events on workers? Surely it's not their obligation or responsibility.
Dr Carlo Caponecchia: No, it's not. They don't is the short answer. They don't, and people get scared about that. It's really important for organisations to understand what they do have to do, and what they don't have to do. Don't get concerned about what you don't have to do. Focus on what you do have to do. What you do have to do in organisations is manage the things that you control. The way that your work is organised, and structured, and how that might present sources of harm to people. That's where you focus. That's it, right?
Support people when they might be experiencing all sorts of things in their life. We all go through that, you know, bereavement and relationship breakdowns, and, you know, medical issues. Support people, be flexible, offer support. Absolutely 100% want people to do that. But the main focus of what organisations have to do is the stuff that they control. That's where organisations need to focus.
Chris Bombolas: So can I gather from that, that our key takeaway message is, focus on what you need to control, or what you can control?
Dr Carlo Caponecchia: That's right, that's right. What's under your control, because of the way that you structure the work. Recognise that you design work, and you can change it.
Chris Bombolas: Thank you very much. I appreciate today's presentations, and the Q&A session, Carlo, really enjoyed it.
Dr Carlo Caponecchia: Great, thanks Chris. Thanks everyone.
Chris Bombolas: In wrapping up, as I mentioned at the beginning of today's talk, I encourage you to reach out if you're struggling or need support. Lifeline is available 24/7 on 13 11 14.
Before we go, we'd love to hear your feedback on today's presentation. So please grab your phone and scan the QR code that's on the screen and take a short survey. It'll only take a couple of minutes, and it is really important for us to formulate future presentations, and of course, to move forward.
Key takeaways from Carlo's presentation will be available at WorkSafe.qld.gov.au, along with his presentation in the coming days. In the meantime, you can also rewatch the session via today's link if you are keen to catch up or share with colleagues straight away.
And while we're on our website, let's talk about our full range of case studies, podcasts, speaker recordings, webinars and films to help you take action to improve your WHS and return to work outcomes. These resources are free to download, so I encourage you to share them with your staff and networks.
On behalf of WorkSafe Health and Safety Queensland, thanks again to Dr Carlo Caponecchia for joining us today, and for you out there, our audience. Thanks for taking in another of our special Work Well presentations. Remember, October is Safe Work Month, and our message 365 24/7 is work safe, home safe. Bye for now.