Managing psychosocial hazards and risks at work is just as important as managing physical risks. Psychosocial hazards can exist in every workplace, in every industry, every day.
The release of the Managing the risk of psychosocial hazards at work Code of Practice 2022 (the Code) along with amendments to the Work Health and Safety Regulation, are important steps in keeping Queensland workplaces safe, healthy and productive.
In this recording Workplace Health and Safety Queensland provides information for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) on how psychosocial hazards and risks can be controlled or managed and can be used to help decide what’s reasonably practicable to reduce risk. We also discuss the hazards in the code and explore how the harm created by psychosocial hazards and risks varies, and the effects are not always obvious. It can be a single event involving one or more psychosocial risks, such as exposure to a traumatic event by an ambulance officer. It can be a combination of psychosocial risks that accumulate to create frequent, prolonged or severe stress responses, such as organisational change with poor supervisor support and low role clarity.
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Chris Bombolas (00:00:14):
Welcome everyone. I'm Chris Bombolas and I'm your mc for today. I'd 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 and present and extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people watching today. Thanks for joining us today to hear about the new managing the risk of psychosocial hazards at work Code of Practice 2022. A practical guide on how to prevent harm from psychosocial hazards at work, including psychological and physical harm. Today you'll hear why psychosocial hazards are important to manage in the workplace. We'll provide a brief overview of the hazards and how these may present and what signs may be evident in the workplace if they are not managed effectively. We'll also discuss some strategies to identify their presence.
We'll then provide an overview of some effective strategies that businesses may put in place to address psychosocial hazards with an emphasis on consultation throughout. Finally, we'll be exploring the role of an inspector, what businesses should expect if an inspector is notified of a psychosocial hazard or incident, and their role in assessing and responding to this. There will be an opportunity to ask questions at the end of today's event, so please be sure to submit them in the chat box. Thank you to those who provided us with questions in advance via your registration form, and for sharing what you are hoping to hear about today. Firstly, I'd like to welcome Sam Popple, Director of Psychological Health at the Office of Industrial Relations. Sam is an organisation all psychology registrar, working in the growing field of psychosocial risk management within Queensland's Work Health and Safety Regulator. Sam will outline the context, uh, for heightened legislation across Australia and highlight important information for all duty holders about the code of practice and regulations. Welcome Sam.
Sam Popple (00:02:40):
Well Morning everyone. Um, uh, this is a great day to be talking about, uh, the managing the risk of psychosocial hazards at work, especially as we're in Harmony Week as well. So I also would like to acknowledge the, uh, traditional custodians of the land on which we meet today. So with the introduction of the new psychosocial code of practice, we have understood that there is some apprehension amongst industry about what to expect after it becomes enforceable on the 1st of April, and I think we can see that with over 5,000 registrations for this live stream, that there's a lot of interest in this code. But however, we hope today's session just provides a gentle reminder that the code of practice doesn't actually create a new work health and safety duty, or expand any existing duties. Rather, it provides us with clarity and certainty, with practical guidance for duty holders about existing obligations to ensure risks to psychological health are eliminated or minimised under the Work Health and Safety Act.
As I said, managing risks to worker psychological health and safety at work is not a new requirement, and however, historically stakeholders indicate that there's a lack of clarity about how to go about doing this and how to manage those risks. We've seen some recent changes in the regulatory landscape regarding psychological health in Queensland we've seen around the best practice review a few years ago. Nationally, we've seen the Boland review and we've also seen increased media attention and scrutiny. I'd also like to point out the respect at work inquiry, which has shown the spotlight on the role of workplaces in preventing and managing risks associated with hazards such as sexual harassment at work. And we're seeing some high profile psychosocial matters going through courts at the moment, but by effectively addressing psychosocial hazards at work, businesses can not only exercise their duties under the work health and safety legislation, but they can also reap the benefits of creating a mentally healthy and safe place to work for everyone.
Before I really start digging into this, I just want to, um, highlight that, that we are gonna be discussing some topics that some may find distressing. So if you do feel that you're affected by the content, then we'd like to, um, you know, ask you to look after yourself. And we've just provided a list of people here that you might be able to contact if you need any support. Um, we will also put this slide up at the end as well. So, um, please take care of yourselves. Um, I know that this can be, can be a difficult subject for some.
So why psychological health at work? Um, I think it's really about, you know, we are starting to understand much more clearly about the role of the workplace in keeping people mentally well and, you know, and helping people who might have any mental health issues. If we look at that first statistic there, 50% of Australian workforce have experienced a mental health condition, and two in five of those workers report that that condition was made worse by their workplace. We know that it's obscenely expensive, mentally healthy, um, unhealthy workplaces are estimated to cost up to 39 billion each year in lost participation and productivity. Massive amounts of money are lost from from this issue. We know that with the Australian Human Rights Commission, that one in three people had experienced sexual harassment at work in the past five years. I'll just repeat that one in three people experienced sexual harassment at work in the past five years.
We do know that businesses receive an average, though a return of investment of we've got down here, $2.30, but it actually ranges quite significantly depending on how much effort you put in. Can be anything from $2.30 to $10, $11 with every dollar that you invest to actually get effective workplace mental health strategies. So we see this as being a win-win, not just for workers, but for employers as well. When we look at the amount of injuries that's caused, um, by workplace incidents, and we look at those mental disorder claims, can you see there that the 1,300 of them are actually serious mental disorder claims with 84 million being paid out for those, we know that they, when people do get, when they claim that we have this many, um, 181 days that are lost for individuals at work and we know that they're particularly relevant for some occupations over others, and I would say that those occupations are the ones that end up dealing with the public, public facing. So you can see there we've got health and welfare support workers, defense force members, firefighters and police, um, that have the highest incidents of accepted mental disorder claims.
So what are your, uh, WHS responsibilities? So we've got here a picture of a fish tank. We've got a fish tank with two fish in here, and I want you to imagine that one of those fish in good mental health and one of those fish are experiencing some mental health issues. You can see that the environment that we've got here is that both of these fish are unsafe and both of them will suffer. So would you just focus on treating the fish when it becomes unwell or would you actually clean the tank? What we're actually seeing in industry is a lot of interventions around the, around the individuals. So we're seeing things like resilience training, you know, employee assistance as being those, the sole, um, uh, interventions to be able to manage when really we have to actually go around and clean the tank.
So how do we get to here? So you can see that with the fish in this tank, they're healthy, whether they've got a mental health condition or whether they're mentally healthy, the code of practice is, it aims to outline your duties to eliminate or minimise the risk to workers from psychosocial hazards. And the psychosocial hazards is the environment, is the water here and the fish tank, and it's how you can actually proactively address those things in the work environment and the context that have the potential to cause harm. We know that mentally healthy workplaces benefit everybody. As I've said before, it's not just about the workers and the individuals, but it benefits businesses too as well as our community. But how do we get there?
So, uh, uh, Chris or talked a bit earlier, we're gonna just go through the, um, the, uh, legislative changes and look at those common psychosocial hazards, um, before we'll just have a look at some of those resources that we can, that we, that can guide your response to psychosocial hazards at work and that's in line with a risk management approach that's really outlined in this code. And finally, we'll have Elias who will dig into the role of an inspector and including what businesses might expect if an inspector is notified of a psychosocial hazard or incident and their role in assessing and responding to this. So today's session will provide the opportunity to learn more about what the code of practice means for you to clarify questions or concerns and to support you in addressing psychosocial hazards at work.
So let's start with what the legislation tells us. The Work Health and Safety Act states that workers should be given the highest practical level of protection against harm to their health and safety from hazards and risks arising from work. The act does include a definition of health and that health means both physical and psychological health. This obligation to manage health and safety workers has not changed. There are no new duties that have been introduced. I just want to reinforce that, that there are no new duties. These have always existed. However, the introduction of Queensland's new code of practice for managing psychosocial hazards at work provides the clarity that employers have sought about how to exercise these duties. In addition to the code of practice, there is now also corresponding sections in the Queensland Work Health and Safety Regulations that specifically address psychosocial hazards or risks to psychological health.
The code will underpin these regulations and provide practical guidance on how to achieve the standards of health, safety and wellbeing required under the ACT and regulation. So under the ACT, duty holders must comply with an approved code of practice so far as reasonably practicable or follow another method that provides an equal or higher standard of health and safety that is outlined in the code. Both the code and the new regulations will be enforceable from the 1st of April, 2023. Not long now, but we'll outline the role of WHSQ enforcing this legislation a little later with Elias.
So who has a health and safety duty in relation to psychosocial hazards at work? There's actually quite a few people or a few groups of people. First of all, is a person conducting a business or an undertaking, A PCBU, as I'll call them from here. So PCBU must ensure so far as reasonably practicable the health and safety, including the psychological health of workers and others. That's visitors, delivery people, clients, patients and their families. And they must make sure that they're not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or the undertaking. So you shouldn't be going home at the end of the day any worse off than when you came in because of your work. So this includes ensuring so far as really practicable the provision and maintenance of a work environment that's with without risks to health and safety, the provision and maintenance of safe systems of work, the provision of adequate facilities, the provision of information, training, instruction or supervision, and that the health of workers and the conditions of the workplace are monitored. A PCBU with management or control of a workplace must ensure so far as reasonably practicable that the workplace, the means of entering and exiting the workplace and anything arising from the workplace are without risks to the health and safety of any person.
If we think about the designers, the manufacturers, importers, installers, and in suppliers of plant substances and structures, they have duties too. They have duties because they can influence the safety of these products before they're used in the workplace. And these duty holders must ensure so far as reasonably practicable that these products are without risk to the health, including psychological health and safety of workers and others who are at or near the workplace. Our third dot point there talks about the officers. So they're company, these are company directors, senior managers or executives. They also have duties. An officer of A PCBU must exercise due diligence to ensure PCBU is comply with the duties under the WHS laws. And this includes taking reasonable steps to acquire and keep up to date knowledge of work, health and safety matters associated with the operations of that business or undertaking and that of course includes matters related to psychological health and psychosocial risks. They must gain an understanding of the nature of the operations of the business or undertaking and the psychosocial hazards associated with these operations. And they must ensure that the PCBU has and uses appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise risks from those social psychosocial hazards. In addition, they must ensure that the PCBU has appropriate processes for receiving and considering information regarding incidents, hazard and risks, and responding in a timely way to that information as well as verifying the provision and use of these resources and processes. So an officer's duty is immediate, positive and proactive and is owed by each individual officer of a PCBU. Further information on who is an officer and those officer duties can be found in the Safe Work Australia guidance, the health and safety duty of an officer.
Our fourth dot point there is around workers. So workers also have duties. While at work a worker must take reasonable care for their own health and safety, including the psychological health. They must take reasonable care the acts or emissions do not adversely affect the health, including psychological health and safety of the other persons. They must comply so far as the worker is reasonably able with reasonable instructions given by a PCBU and they must cooperate with reasonable health and safety policies or procedures issued by a PCBU that have been notified to workers. And finally, we've got other persons at the workplace. So those visitors, delivery people, customers, clients, et cetera, they must also take reasonable care for their own health and safety. And they must take reasonable care not to adversely affect other people's health and safety by exposing them to psychosocial hazards. And they must comply so far as they're reasonably able with reasonable instructions given by A PCBU to allow them to comply with the Work Health and Safety Act. The PCBUs must also manage these psychosocial risks in accordance with part 3.1 of the WHS Regulation. This includes eliminating psychosocial risks so far as reasonably practicable or if it's not reasonably practicable to eliminate psychosocial risks, minimising psychosocial risk so far as reasonably practicable. So further information on this specific regulatory requirement in relation to psychosocial risk is provided in the code, but Elias will also talk a little bit to that later.
So what is psychological health and safety? So I've got up here, uh, a few different terms because we, we often hear a few, uh, these words being used interchangeably and they're not the same thing. So I thought I would just try and explain what some of these differences are. So psychological health and safety is, can be understood as applying the risk management framework to psychosocial hazards at work. This includes identifying the hazards, identifying the, assessing the degree of harm, implementing suitable controls, and directly reviewing those controls. Whereas we've got psychological safety, which is actually a different concept. So this psychological safety was originally, um, well, uh, researched by Amy Edmondson. In fact, there were some researchers before her. And this is around the shared belief that the team is safe to, for interpersonal risk taking. It isn't about being nice as it can be about challenging a status quo, speaking up and taking risks. And the re the research that Amy has done has really demonstrated the value of having psychological safety at work. But it, this isn't the same thing as psychological health and safety, where you have to demonstrate going through that risk management framework.
I've also got up there the difference between psychological health versus psychosocial hazards. So psychological health is where we talk about the individual, and this is a state of wellbeing in which individuals realise their own potential to cope with normal stresses of life and they can work productively and make, make a contribution to their community. When we talk about risks to psychological health, these are known as psychosocial risks and these are created by the psychosocial hazards. I'll just explain this a little bit further by taking a step back and discussing what we mean when we talk about psychosocial hazards and psychological health and safety. So a psychosocial hazard is a hazard that arises from, or relates to the design or management of work, a work environment, plant at a workplace, or workplace interactions and behaviors that may cause psychological harm, whether or not the hazard may also cause physical harm. And in severe cases they can lead to death by suicide.
So the way that psychosocial hazards create harm is through a worker's experience of a stress response. And it's where the stress response is frequent, prolonged, or severe. And that leads to a person's psychological response around feelings of anxiety and tension and that physiological response where you get the release of stress hormones. In relation to work demands or threats, we must recognise that stress is subjective and it relates to the worker's perception that they are experiencing beyond their capacity to control or manage. So in some instances, low levels of some psychosocial hazards in isolation may not cause stress. However, they may accumulate or combine to create a stress response and that increases the risk of harm to workers. Other psychosocial hazards may cause more immediate harm, such as an exposure to a single traumatic event like an armed holdup lead into the development of acute stress response and or post-traumatic stress disorder. So stress is the pathway or the mechanism of injury that can lead to ill health, physical or psychological injury or death. We often refer to psychological when we're talking about the individual and when we talked about psychosocial, that's when the individual or the person is reacting with their social environment, hence the psychosocial.
So the code of practice is broken down into five sections, including information about the most common psychosocial hazards, who has a health and safety duty relating to psychosocial hazards as I've re just explained, what is reasonably practicable in managing these hazards. And also other relevant laws that may apply that duty hoarders should be aware of. It also provides information and guidance on consulting with workers who are or likely to be directed by psychosocial hazards at work. And I'd like to stress the importance of consulting, cooperating and coordinating your risk management activities with your other relevant duty holders. The final sections of the code provide practical guidance on applying the risk management process to psychosocial risks and hazards, responding to complaints, incidents, or reports of psychosocial hazards and also issue and dispute resolution. The code doesn't cover the duty and obligations in legislation other than the Work Health and Safety Act. So things like workers compensation laws, fair work laws, anti-discrimination laws. It also doesn't cover workplaces captured by other safety legislation. For example, the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act and the Mine Inquiry and Safety and Health Act, both in 1999. And it doesn't support programs to promote and support mental health, which are non-work related, delivered at work.
This code will also emphasise the risk to worker psychological health from exposure to a combination of psychosocial hazards where that exposure is frequent, prolonged, or severe. And this includes exposure to event-based psychosocial hazards such as violence and aggression, bullying or sexual harassment and cumulative psychosocial hazards such as high job demands or work conflict. So what are these common psychosocial hazards that arise from or are related to work? So these are explored in more in further detail in the code and may include high or low job demands, low job control, poor support, low role clarity, poor organisational change management, low reward and recognition, poor organisational justice, poor workplace relationships including interpersonal conflict, remote or isolated work, poor environmental conditions, traumatic events, violence and aggression, bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment.
As I've mentioned before, it's important to know that while these hazards may occur in isolation, what we often see is that the multiple hazards exist together and when they exist together, that's when they can increase the risk of harm. Couple of examples of that, for instance, is when we might see poor organisational change management. If you have a poor change management and then you combine that with poor support, uh, lack of role clarity, you've got increased demands, then you can see that the risks increase from that. Another one might be violence and aggression, including internal and external sources with domestic and family violence when it impacts the workplace. It's also too important to remember that like physical hazards, some workers may be at greater risk from exposure to psychosocial hazards. Consulting workers will assist with identifying those who may be at greater risk and what additional controls are needed to manage the risk for these workers. So far as reasonably practicabl., I can't emphasize the role of consultation enough in being able to understand what an organization's psychosocial risks are.
So just going back to those key principles then that we're trying to convey here. We've got the risk management part of the code, we've got the hierarchy of controls, and as I mentioned, the importance of consultation. So the risk management process is, um, where duty holders are required to follow that risk management approach. So psychological health and safety doesn't happen by chance or by guesswork. Duty holders must manage psychosocial risk in accordance with the legislation. And this includes identifying those hazards, eliminating or minimising the risks, controlling the risks in accordance with the hierarchy of controls and maintaining and reviewing control measures to make sure that they remain effective. And this process is known as the risk management process.
So how do we do this and what do psychosocial hazards look like? So when looking to identify psychosocial hazards at work, things to look out for, include how is the work performed, including the physical, mental and emotional demands of the tasks and activities. A worker's rushed. Is work delayed? Is there a work backlog? How do workers, managers, supervisors, and others interact? And how inappropriate behaviors or conflicts dealt with? So are workers, customers and clients respectful? Are there problems with service delivery, poor relationships, the present of emotional distress or community issues that could lead to conflict or violence at work? Does the culture at work support or tolerate inappropriate behavior? EG behaviors like name calling, teasing, racist, sexual or gendered go jokes or vilification, crude language, swearing or hazing, your young work workers ignored or tolerating or tolerated. And I can certainly think back to, uh, you know, earlier on in my career, you know, those behaviors that were tolerated then are certainly not tolerated. Now.
Have any changes occurred at work which may affect psychological health? If your work is being adequately informed about a organisational change and does the work environment create psychosocial hazards, a worker isolated or exposed to biological hazards such as uncontrolled infectious pathogens or bodily fluids? Does the nature of the work inherently involve psychosocial hazard? And how frequently is this occurring? How often are workers exposed to traumatic events? And what are the working arrangements? Do they post psychosocial risk workers and others? Are workers working alone? Are they in contact with the public or engaged in shift work or working after hours? And does the workplace support behaviors that promote psychological health? Is the work-life balance encouraged? Are reasonable working hours maintained? Is communication inclusive and respectful? And is return to work following injury proactive and supportive?
What workplace data might you examine to assess whether there is risk to the psychological health and safety of workers? So other information might include records of sick leave and that can be with or without certificates. And when considering sick leave, look at the rate of sick leave for a work group compared to the average across a unit regional department and compared to the whole organization. Look at patterns of use. Taking small amounts of time off may be associated with unpleasant working conditions and work-related stress. Look for types of illness or injury, eg tension headaches or migraines, recurrent general ill health such as colds or flus, digestive system ulcer, musculoskeletal disorders such as tendon or muscular soreness, et cetera. And identify patterns or conditions consistent with workers experiencing stress. Look at your recreation leave. Are there excessive recreation leave balances that may indicate high workloads?
And you can look at the worker's compensation claims, looking at examining that data regarding those claims for work-related stress, post-traumatic disorder, anxiety and depression. Record the factors that are associated with work-related, work-related stress claims and the actions undertaken in the workplace to prevent further injury and illness. Patterns and trends or workers' compensation claims can provide insights and information about psychosocial hazards and risks in the workplace. You could also look at the grievance information. This can indicate issues that may give rise to stress in the workplace, things such as harassment, discrimination, violence and aggression and bullying. Those incident and injury records. Look at the dates and times that coincide with other events and trends. The pattern of small and large instance may provide insight into the source of stress in the workplace. What about your employee assistance program? The summary data such as the number of reports, types of issues managed, can provide insights into the cause of stressful workers, industrial relations records, minutes of meetings, issue resolution, resolution records, employee opinion, survey information turnover data, media attention, recruitment. All of these different aspects can give you an insight into what's going on.
So what do psychosocial hazards sound like? You might see here that they might talk about psychosocial hazards that work in different ways, and it's important to pay attention to and recognise these signs and respond appropriately. You might hear comments like, I feel burnt out, I have too much work to do and too little time, I feel micromanage, I don’t what's expected of me, I'm not treated fairly, I don’t know what they want me to do and I can't sleep. Stress is not a one size fits all and it impacts different individuals differently. And one of the reasons why we see both psychological and physical injuries. Consultation is absolutely the key to understanding the impact of psychosocial hazards on individuals at work and developing the appropriate strategies to address these.
The code of practice outlines some useful tools to help you assess the risks. So we've got here people at work, which is a risk assessment process. We've got the psychosocial risk assessment and we've got a focus group guide. Utilise existing consultation mechanisms to help you identify and assess psychosocial risks in your workplace. So hierarchy of controls, this is around controlling the hazards. So underneath the Work Health and Safety Act, a duty to ensure health and safety means PCBUs must eliminate risks to health and safety so far as reasonably practicable. If it's not reasonably practicable to eliminate risks to health and safety, these risks must be minimised so far, is reasonably practicable. The Queensland Code and Regulations emphasize the importance of applying the hierarchy of controls to work-related psychosocial hazards as you would with physical hazards. This ensures higher order or more effective control measures are implemented in the first instance wherever possible, rather than relying predominantly on lighter touch methods such as administrative controls. Often you'll find that higher order controls will need to be supported by administrative controls in order to be effective. So the Code of Practice outlines useful resources, including a list of control measures to consider when addressing psychosocial hazards. But remember that all of these steps must be supported by consultation.
And if I hadn't emphasized that consultation is key, this slide is going to go into it at a bit further. So why, why is it key? So it improves decision making about work health and safety matters. It allows workers to identify tasks or aspects of the work that cause or expose them to psychosocial hazards. Provides the opportunity for workers to provide practical solutions or practical suggestions or potential solutions to address these hazards. And if workers are represented by an HSR consultation must involve that HSR. So like physical hazards, some workers may be at greater risk from psychosocial hazards. Consulting workers will assist with identifying those who may be at greater risk and what additional controls can be implemented to eliminate or minimise the risk for these workers. So far as reasonably practicable. And this is outlined in the code. Examples of consultation methods include focus groups, worker survey work, health and safety committee meetings, consultative committees, team meetings or individual discussions.
Examples of workers who may be at higher risk include workers with those with limited work experience. So young workers, apprentices or trainees. And I think we've all heard some horrific stories about hazing in in some of those young workers. Barriers to understanding safety information. So literacy and language barriers, the perceived barriers to raising safety issues. The workers engaged with insecure or precarious work. How likely are they to tell you that something is going on if they think their job is on the line. And then certain attributes such as sex, race, religious beliefs, pregnancy, gender identity, sexuality, age, or a combination of these attributes. Also got an injury or illness preventing them from performing their full or normal duties. If workers are represented by a health and safety representative, then consultation must involve that health and safety representative.
Speaker 2 (00:32:57):
So keeping records of the risk management process may assist with demonstrating what's been done to comply with the WHS Act and WHS Regulation. So a work health and safety inspector may ask to see a copy of records relating to the risk management process if they visit a workplace. If a written record is not available, PCBUs will need to demonstrate how their duties have been met by other means.
In drafting the code we tried very hard to provide as many examples as we could to demonstrate what good might look like. So there are case studies right at the back. We've also given examples of the psychosocial hazards and the control measures for those psychosocial hazards. There's also at the back an example of a work-related bullying policy as well as an example of a risk register.
Now, as I'm drawing to a close around my, my aspect of, of talking to you about the code, I just want to reinforce that there is lots of information out there. There's additional tools and resources, and we're working on more to come. So in addition to the code of practice itself, you're going to see if you go onto the work health and safety website, we can see that there's lots of information around mentally healthy, uh, workplaces. There's a toolkit and there's access to some, uh, uh, workshops around that toolkit. We've got other, um, information around psychological health for small businesses. There's a fact sheet for that. We've got guidance materials specifically for work-related violence and aggression. And we've got guidance for work-related violence and aggression in health services as well. And that includes an investigation tool. There's a guide there to working safely in people's homes, an area of risk that we know about, as well as preventing and managing fatigue related risk in the workplace. So I want to encourage you all that if you're not sure of what you're doing and the information's not in the code, please hop on to our work website and access more of that information.
So now I'd like to pass over to, um, to Elias, who's going to give you a little bit more information around what to do when an inspector calls.
Chris Bombolas (00:35:16):
Thanks Sam. Uh, I'll take over quickly before Elias. Um, I'll just introduce Elias, Elias JehaElias is a legal support officer at the Office of Industrial Relations. It has 25 years, uh, post admission experience as a lawyer, including defense and prosecution roles. He has eight years of operational safety in the mining sector and worked in operational roles during that time. Elias is currently with the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Statewide Investigations team providing legal advice on current investigations. Welcome Elias.
Elias Jeha (00:36:00):
Thanks Bomber. And thanks. Uh, Sam. Uh, look, uh, just very quickly today is not legal advice. Um, hopefully what I'll be able to do is provide some insight into how workplace health and safety, uh, conducts investigations and, um, looks, uh, at workplace interventions, uh, when they're notified, um, about a psychosocial matter. Um, as Sam has mentioned earlier, uh, the duties have not changed for, uh, an employer or a PCBU, uh, out in the real world. Uh, these duties were always there, uh, and will continue, uh, when the code's introduced, uh, on the 1st of April, uh, that duty to manage psychosocial hazards and risks remains the same. And I know I've repeated it, but, uh, it's important to remember that, uh, what the code does it, it, it gives some very helpful guidance in relation to how you might manage, um, your duties, uh, under the act.
Uh, now this first slide you'll see, it contains a number of situations where inspector can act and it's worthwhile having a read of that, um, probably after the presentation. And just consider that it's not everything, um, that we might look at, but it includes a number of things that inspectors might look at if they're, uh, at your workplace. Now, that leads me into how an inspector might end up in your workplace, uh, and that, um, will result from either a notification, uh, a complaint, or potentially a proactive audit at some stage. Uh, in essence, what an inspector is going to do when they get there is look at the systems and what work, race work, uh, workplace response, um, has been made in relation to, um, the reason for their visit. Um, it's important to remember we are not the only regulator that works in this space of psychosocial hazardous psychosocial harm.
Uh, there are a number of other, uh, agencies and regulators, uh, which work in this space. Um, and, and that's why workplace health and safety, uh, is looking at the workplace response, the systems, uh, and how psychosocial hazards being managed at that particular workplace. Um, what we can't do is go outside the role of workplace health and safety Queensland. So we can't look at compensation, unfair dismissal, reinstatement, or other individual, um, outcomes or concerns that might be held. Uh, we aren't there to investigate the actual incident if there is an incident which led us to be there. Uh, these matters can often be quite complex. They're, they're, they're almost always difficult, uh, and can involve a number of overlapping jurisdictions that it might include the police, Fair Work, uh, Queensland or Fair Work Australia, Human Rights, um, or even the Anti-Discrimination Commission. Um, Workplace Health and Safety will work with those agencies but, um, where things overlap, uh, we will allow those other agencies to manage those components of a potential complaint.
Okay, now, uh, Sam has also stated hopefully that the code itself is enforceable. Uh, so when it comes into force on the 1st of April, um, there's a really useful forward in the code which explains, um, uh, why it is enforceable and there's a provision in 26A of the Work Health and Safety Act, Queensland, which in essence, uh, states that, uh, the duty, um, or that workplace have a duty to follow the code and comply with the code or manage the hazard and risk in a way that is equal to or greater than the code itself.
Uh, and really that that is, um, I mean, there's a number of other ways in which the code helps in relation to helping to explain what is reasonably practicable and I'll, I'll, I'll raise that in a minute. Um, the, and so going on to what is reasonably practicable, uh, that is a, something which is determinate objectively. Now it's defined in section 18 of the Work Health and Safety Act. Uh, and I'll try and run you through my, um, view about what you should be looking at when considering, um, the definition contained in section 18, um, uh, what it does mean is that which is or was at a particular time, reasonably able to be done to ensure health and safety taking into account and weighing up all the relevant matters, including then it lists five different matters. Now, important thing to remember when you're looking at reasonable practicability and working out, um, how to apply it is there is only one way.
So you have to follow the process, it's stated in the section to determine what's reasonably practicable. Uh, and this is where the code does help as well. So when we, when we go through these five factors, and I'll explain them as best I can, um, what you should be doing is turning your mind to, uh, how the code might feed into those, because it's really useful in, um, and, and contains a number of different, uh, components which help you better understand, um, what you might be looking at when deciding what's reasonably practicable. So the first, um, element in section 18 is the likelihood of the hazard or risk occurring. Now, that is where, again, the code really helps, uh, because it provides some examples of situations where there's a higher likelihood, uh, of, uh, psychosocial harm. Uh, then you get to, um, the second, um, matter, which is the degree of harm that might result from psychosocial hazard or risk.
And again, the code is useful in outlining what that degree of harm might be, and it does talk about the real, um, risk of death that might result from psychosocial harm. The next thing to consider when looking at reasonably practicable is what the person, um, knew or or reasonably to know, uh, to know about the hazard or risk and the ways of eliminating or minimising the risk. Now, uh, when you look at the code, it is, uh, something which ought reasonably to be known by every employer in Queensland, uh, because it's and will soon be an approved code. Uh, and what that means is, is there, there is no excuse not to know what's contained in the code in relation to, um, the hazard or risk being psychosocial hazards and, and risks and also, um, the ways of eliminating or minimising the risk. And there are a number of examples contained within the code that outline the ways to eliminate or minimise, uh, risk and Sam's uh, spoken about a number of those already.
The next thing that you've required to consider when looking at reasonable practicability is the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk. Uh, again, the code's helpful in demonstrating what's available and what's suitable when looking at psychosocial hazards in risk. And it even refers to risk assessment being suitable for all business. Uh, the last thing you need to consider when looking at, um, the, uh, factors within reasonably practicable is whether cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk. That is the cost of implementing controls being grossly disproportionate. Now, sometimes this factor gets treated as, as an equal factor, but it's important to consider the way that, um, that last, um, section in, in section 18, um, e is worded. And it actually says in essence that after considering those first four factors, uh, and giving them all weight, uh, now consider whether cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk. All right. So that's the best summary I think I can give you in relation to, um, reasonable practicability. Uh, the next thing that you really need to remember, again, is to be reminded of what your, um, workplace health and safety duties are now. They were contained in the model Act back in 2011, and they carry through within the Queensland, um, uh, legislation as well. Um, the act does talk about health as being both physical and psychological, and it's really important to consider that it really ties into the, um, purpose of the code being introduced.
So thank you for that. That's, uh, the end of my presentation. I think we've now got some, uh, time for questions, but I'll pass it back over to Bomber.
Chris Bombolas (00:45:47):
Elias. Yes, uh, we do have time for questions and I want to thank everybody for bringing in heaps and heaps of questions. Our team are working hard on those questions and we'll try to get through as many as we can. Uh, but remember, if you need to leave us because of time, and we may go over a little bit to try and get through as many questions as we can, it's being recorded and it will be available for replay very, very shortly. Now, Sam and Elias, take a breath, uh, get ready. Uh, I will ask you to, uh, answer these questions as succinctly as we can so we can get through as many as uh, possible, uh, in the time that we have available. Um, first up, Susan asks, what does fit for work look like for mental health?
Sam Popple (00:46:35):
Um, I'll take that one. I think Elias. So I think, uh, with that we need to consider what you would do for physical health. I think it's the same, uh, process that you would undertake, uh, for mental health as you would for physical health. I would just point out though that, um, stigma is probably still a big issue and, and, uh, we know that people don't always raise, uh, mental health issues because of that stigma. So, so bear that in mind. But you know, you need to seek advice to support you in determining what that fitness of work looks like and make any reasonable adjustments for anyone that's disclosing, kind of like any mental, mental illness to you. All
Chris Bombolas (00:47:10):
Right. Now Andrew asks, what's the difference between the Queensland Code of Practice and the Safe Work Australia Code of Practice? Can we follow either?
Elias Jeta (00:47:20):
I'll leave that to Sam again. She's more <laugh> <laugh>,
Chris Bombolas (00:47:23):
You're getting off Scott free at the moment.
Sam Popple (00:47:27):
So the Queensland code is, um, largely aligns with the Safe Work Australia model code, but a key difference is that Queensland's emphasis is on the hierarchy of controls. And, um, this was a really considered approach by Queensland because we really wanted to, uh, make sure that people were undertaking the highest possible control, um, for managing the hazards and risks. And we're just doing kind of token, uh, token aspects. Think if I give an example of that, if we look at, you know, bullying, you know, somebody might say, well, I've got a bullying policy. Is that enough? Well, if you've got a problem, then possibly no, are you actually understanding whether people in the workplace are following that policy and procedure? Are they actually managing incidences? Are they able to talk about kind of issues? So I think, um, the, the Queensland code is the legislative code that you need to, uh, adhere to in Queensland.
Elias Jeta (00:48:15):
And just to add to that, um, compliance with the code is a defense to any, um, action by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. So if you're complying with the code, the Queensland code, then you have nothing to worry about. Nothing to fear.
Chris Bombolas (00:48:31):
Okay. Michael asks, many young people suffer from anxiety. How do you allow for different levels of anxiety and risk assessment? Because, you know, some people are just a slightly nervous, others anxiety takes control of them, and they, they they can't breathe, they can't operate.
Sam Popple (00:48:50):
Yeah, no, that's a good question. Um, bomber, and I think, you know, we, again, you know, if we look at the, the analogies or the parallels with the physical, physical, um, issues, you know, if you've got a 40 kilo weight, are you really expecting everybody to be able to lift that weight in a workplace? Are you expecting your, you know, 46 kilo kind of female worker to lift it the same as sort of like, you know, somebody who's a hundred kilos and does, you know, workouts, your best option really is to actually go and have a look at how they don't have to lift at all. Um, one of the reasons that we emphasize the hierarchy of controls, but I think it really speaks to the fact that stress and, you know, mental health issues are experienced differently by everybody. And consultation is, which we've emphasized really strongly in this presentation, is around understanding where people are at at that particular time. So the, the question around, you know, in the risk assessment, will you ask, you ask your workers, they will tell you.
Chris Bombolan (00:49:47):
So if someone was to take a, you know, a pigeonhole someone or you know, one size fits all, could they get in trouble under the code, do you think because they haven't done a proper risk assessment?
Elias Jeta (00:49:58):
Yes, absolutely. I mean, the code's, um, quite clear in, in relation to what you're required to do and how you're required to do it. Mm-hmm.
Chris Bombolas (00:50:07):
Okay. Uh, that question leads into this one. Given psych hazards have felt differently by different people, uh, with different tolerance for stress, how do we manage this?
Sam Popple (00:50:18):
And I think that speaks directly to what Elisa was just saying there, you've got a risk management process, follow that risk management process, look at the code, and it will guide you how to go through that.
Chris Bombolas (00:50:28):
Oh, here's one that both of you could, uh, really like a myth buster here. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, what suggestions do you have for a workplace run by old school thinking and mentality and approaches or don't understand mental health? Sam?
Sam Popple (00:50:44):
Yeah, I think, um, this is so interesting, isn't it, Bomber? I think because, you know, uh, prior to my, you know, career now as an org psych, uh, registrar, like I was an intensive care nurse, I can remember 20, 25 years ago some of the behaviors that we were experiencing back then, they're not, they're not tolerated now. Mm-hmm. We are seeing a shift in changes of expectations in how we can, how workplaces, uh, you know, behavior and workplaces being tolerated and the conditions around, you know, supporting workers. So I would say your time is up really for those people who are thinking that that's okay. Um, now times have changed. There has always been that legal obligation, and I think now that we understand what that is, and this is what the code is around, is to really give notice.
Elias Jeta (00:51:31):
Stole my thunder a little. It is, it is the law. And, you know, really, uh, the code is what's known or reasonably to be known about the hazard risk and ways to eliminate or minimise it is what employers are deemed to, to know.
Chris Bombolas (00:51:45):
And there have been industries that are lagged traditionally. Uh, you know, the the macho type industries. Is it time up for them too now?
Sam Popple (00:51:54):
I, I think so. Yeah. And I think it's about time. So male, male, uh, hierarchical, uh, you know, industries are definitely going have to, you know,
Elias Jeta (00:52:02):
And, and, and even just some of the small risk areas like bullying, uh, we, we know what that does to people. So, uh, it's, it's not a matter of, of not being able to enjoy yourself at work and to be able to have that comradery and, uh, but it, it, it's a matter of making sure it's appropriate in the workplace
Sam Popple (00:52:20):
And for everybody, you know, so everybody is safe and healthy at work.
Chris Bombolas (00:52:26):
Uh, what training and support is available for managers and supervisors in dealing with these sensitive matters?
Speaker 2 (00:52:33):
So in, um, uh, what Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, we do provide the Mentally healthy workplaces toolkit. Um, that really gives you a lot of good ideas of how to go through and can think about, uh, your work health and safety obligations for psychological health. And I would, um, suggest going there and seeing if you can register on one of our workshops as well that provides that support for managers and supervisors. I just also wanna make the point as well, that for, for those, those people who are out there that the managers and supervisors themselves, their psychosocial risks need to be managed as well. So it's not just about, you know, the, the a leader being able to manage that risk for their teams. It's, we need to manage those risks for everybody, hence why we talk about all the different duties that everybody has.
Elias Jeta (00:53:17):
Chris Bombolas (00:53:17):
Which probably leads into a question like this, I'm a small business owner. I don't have staff dedicated to safety or specialists on board. We all wear multiple hats. Uh, where do I start? What, how, how does the process look like for me in this business?
Sam Popple (00:53:35):
I think a lot of small businesses, you know, will already be doing a lot of this work anyway. They'll already be doing it by talking to their workers and understanding how they can kind of accommodate or fit or, you know, talking to them to work out what they're, if they have any issues or, or changing things. Sometimes it's easier as a small business to change things than it is in a larger business. But I would say for the small business is we do have a, a guide, a specific guide for psychological health for small business. You know, please go there and have a look. And we also recognise that with 97% of, you know, Queensland businesses being small business, we've also got another live stream that's coming up soon, uh, on small business, uh, in psychological health. So stay tuned for that.
Chris Bombolas (00:54:16):
And I'm guessing
Elias Jeta (00:54:17):
I'm gonna answer the next, next question.
Chris Bombolas (00:54:20):
How has a PCBU to determine the severity of risk Without being a psychologist, I'm no expert. Hey, I'm, I've gotta run a business, how am I gonna do it?
Elisa Jeta (00:54:29):
I'm not a psychologist either. And, and look, uh, I keep coming back to saying, this is where the code helps and, uh, it, it darts uh, it tells you about the likelihood of psychosocial harm and psychosocial hazards in workplaces in Queensland. Uh, it, it tells you that there is this high risk, and in certain industries there's an increased risk. Uh, and it's just a matter of looking around your workplace, uh, and, um, considering what you're doing and then having you think about that. Uh, and you'll find that there is this real likelihood of psychosocial harm in every workplace, some with a much higher, um, uh, um, prospect of psychosocial harm. Then the next part of your risk assessment is the degree of harm. So there are two things that, that you're looking at to get that initial, um, uh, um, rating. And the code tells you there's a risk of death. And it's, it's quite clear, and I think that's a really well known, um, now thankfully with all the promotion around mental health, is that people understand that mental health issues lead to it does lead to death. uh, and even if not just by suicide, but also, um, it can affect physiologically people's, um, own, um, physical health. Um, so very clearly, when you look at those two factors, that's that first part of the risk assessment done for you. Now you're really just looking at controls.
Chris Bombolas (00:55:56):
Here's a question that would follow on from, from that answer and that question. When we know so many people have existing mental health issues, how are employers protected? So we are looking at the other side of the coin here. When an employer/e already has an existing psychological health concern, also do staff now have an obligation to share mental health issues with us as the employer, uh, for us to reasonably know. So, you know, if they don't share it, how are we gonna know?
Sam Popple (00:56:28):
Well, uh, first of all on that, that first part of that question, I think if you, if, uh, we we're not in a time at the moment where we have lots of workers out there, you know, we, we are all struggling to find staff. So I would say if you are going to, uh, be limited in your thinking and think I'm not gonna take somebody on with a mental health issue, then I would suggest that you would find that very difficult to find anybody. Um, I think, you know, people don't have to disclose their mental health issues in much the same way that they don't have to disclose their physical issues unless it becomes a problem at work. You know, unless there is something that they want to be able to convey. And that really leads back into that stigmatised notion as well. You know, mental health is still stigmatised. People still think it's around, you know, people's ability to cope and, you know, they, they're just, you know, unable to do that and let's just give them some resilience training. But, you know, as we know, you know, going back to that fish in the fish tank analogy, you know, just treating the the fish is not the point. It's not the, you want to create that environment so that everybody can flourish for in that environment. And the way that we do that is through that risk management process.
Elias Jeta (00:57:34):
And, and this leads into reasonable practicability as well. So there, there's no requirement to force anyone to disclose, um, mental health issues. Um, but if once they're known, they can't be unknown. And, uh, factor C is what's known or reasonably to be known about the hazard or risk and ways of eliminating or minimising the risk. And that includes, once you know about an employee's underlying mental health issues or even just a, a significant stressor they're going through at that point in time, you then required to consider that and, uh, and, and if needed, make changes at the workplace to accommodate that worker.
Chris Bombolas (00:58:18):
Let's move on to the next question. Are there any considerations of people who might be at higher risk of, uh, psychosocial harm due to being a member of a minority group, uh, for example, first Nations, et cetera?
Sam Popple (00:58:33):
Yeah, and I spoke a little bit about that in the presentation. I think, you know, um, you have to really understand the, the, the psychosocial hazards that you've got in that environment. So, you know, we know young workers, uh, you know, they, they don't wanna speak out. Uh, they often find that really hard. They're only new in that environment, and they don't necessarily have the confidence to be able to do that. But then that can arrange to a whole, you know, a whole number of different people. So I think if we look at sexual harassment, we can see that although sexual harassment occurs for men and women, that it's predominantly women that, that face that. So yes, that's a risk factor. And I would say any kind of place where you see discrimination or, or some kind of, um, isolation of people, those, those are definitely at risk.
Chris Bombolas (00:59:17):
What do I do if staff use this as an opportunity to air grievances, uh, when issues aren't caused by work but are non-performance related?
Sam Popple (00:59:29):i
If we go back to the risk assessment process here, I think
Chris Bombolas (00:59:34):
We keep going back to that, that's
Sam Popple (00:59:35):
Exactly, that's right.
Chris Bombolas (00:59:37):
That's the key element that in this whole discussion.
Sam Popple (00:59:39):
That's exactly right. And that consultation mechanism to be able to do that. If you are confident that you are going through the risk assessment process and you are identifying those risks, those psychosocial risks, then that will see you, right in being able to, you know, put the controls in place. If you've got a, a non-performance issue, what, what mechanisms have you got to be able to, to manage that? You know, what are those HR systems? And maybe you need HR advice around which one of those it is. It's hard to say with that kind of example, you know, what's going on there. So, uh, if you had a, uh, an organisation that was really doing their risk assessment beautifully, then they Yes. That, that will be then an HR issue.
Chris Bombolas (01:00:22):
Which leads us to this, I guess, uh, what are the roles and responsibilities of HR teams versus WHS teams within an organisation, be it large or small?
Same Popple (01:00:33):
Yeah, so this code is really, really demonstrating, you know, as we talked about some of those data sources, they are really a lot of the, what are traditionally been seen as the human resources, kind of like data sources. But we need those really to understand what the work, health and safety, uh, responsibilities are or what's going on in the work health and safety lens of the organisation. This is a time really now where we're showing in this code that work health and safety in HR have to really work together to be able to understand this. And I can't emphasize that more is, there's not a time for kind of like separate, siloed pieces of work now to really make sure that your workplace is healthy and safe, psychologically healthy and safe, then those two areas gonna need to be working together very closely.
Chris Bombolas (01:01:16):
Now, thanks to everyone for your questions. Um, Des uh, like a lot of you has, um, uh, stayed with us. We're gonna run overtime a little bit to get through a few more questions. Des wants to know, whilst it's implemented from one April, 2023, employers have until December, 2023 to implement and be compliant. Is that true?
Elias Jeta (01:01:37):
Uh, look, uh, it's not, it, nothing's changed. So the code isn't introducing a new duty. We have duties right now to make sure that we're doing the things that are stated within the code, hasn't created, um, anything that wasn't there before, other than some really some guidance and assistance and some more structure around what a workplace should be doing. So it's not a matter of, um, having until December 23 to comply their current duties and their current duties exist. Right. At this point in time, it might be that we, uh, as, as an organisation, um, being Workplace Health and Safety um, we, we may consider how we, um, audit and, and, uh, how we look at, you know, other campaigns around, um, assessing whether, um, workplaces have complied. But when we're dealing with complaints and when we're, we're actually showing up to a workplace, we’ll be expecting, um, employers to be compliant with that code and also, um, discharging their duties.
Chris Bombolas (01:02:46):
So the bottom line is you need to be compliant now and the code is helping you navigate to become compliant or to continue to become or to improve even.
Sam Popple (01:02:57):
Elias Jeta (01:02:58):
Chris Bombolas (01:02:59):
All right. When should the regulator be notified about psychosocial matters and what would be a serious notifying incident?
Elias Jeta (01:03:09):
Well, we have a, a triaging process. Uh, there, there is a, a separate, um, notification, uh, or separate notification provisions within the act. And, uh, look, it, it's a detailed question, so it's really important to go through and work through the notification provisions in the act. I think it's a, a little difficult to give you, um, all of the circumstances in this, in, in answering that question.
Chris Bombolas (01:03:35):
Yep. Okay. Can you give us an example of what a serious notifying incident might be?
Elias Jeta (01:03:41):
Well, Um, there are examples within the notification provisions in relation to someone suffering, um, a serious illness. Uh, but again, it's a matter of going back to those provisions, I think, and, and looking at individual matters. It's,
Chirs Bombolas (01:03:53):
This is an important one. Any tips for HSR on how they can manage the managers who have no idea on the code of practice? Like there are still some of them out there, right. So, um, that'd be handy.
Sam Popple (01:04:06):
Yeah. So, um, HSR, uh, you know, for those of you might not know as health and safety representatives, and these are a, a key, um, part for an organisation to be able to get that consultation mechanism. Uh, some workplaces might not have them and they, you still need to consult with your workers. But where you do have a, an HSR health and safety representative, these are, um, you know, an important to be able to go through that risk assessment process with them. So with, uh, HSR, if you are, if you are thinking that there's something else that needs to be done, I would actually suggest, uh, this presentation was recorded and these questions are being recorded, so please, you know point people to this. We've also got some other resources online. We've got a, a tool, uh, toolbox talk as well that's about 10 minutes long. Um, of course, take the code with you to, um, you know, to when you're talking to the manager to talk about the, the need for compliance and the need for undertaking the risk assessment process. But, uh, in the, in the legislation, there is a provision, isn't there lives for, um, for actually consulting with your health and safety representatives.
Elias Jeta (01:05:08):
And, and additionally they're an important piece of the puzzle when looking at not just consultation, but, um, overall risk management. And, uh, if we shop as inspectors, um, in a workplace and as a HSR, we'll, um, we'll make contact with that HSR and involve them in the process of the inspection, so the ins the inspector will, um, will, will act, will consult with the HSR, um, if they come to workplace.
Chris Bombolas (01:05:35):
Alright. Do you think it should be mandatory for leaders and HSR to go through mental health first aid training? To be well-equipped for that role?
Sam Popple (01:05:46):
So anyone who knows who's been through mental health first aid training, so this is a, a training that actually gives you an idea of what distress looks like and how to manage that distress. So if you are actually, uh, using that as your only control measure, um, then it really is too late. Cause you're really, really waiting until very, the end. The work health and safety legislation is around prevention and using the mechanisms of the risk assessment process to prevent, um, issues. So whilst that may be a very useful intervention for a specific, you know, nature around, um, managing other people's distress, it's not enough. It's not enough on its own. And I, you know, you need a whole, uh, toolbox of different tools in there. This is just one tool that's needed right at the end when people are, are really at their wits end. And it can be extraordinarily beneficial at that end, but it certainly isn't the answer for everything.
Chris Bombolas (01:06:39):
What's Workplace Health and Safety Queensland doing about sexual harassment in the workplace?
Elias Jeta (01:06:46):
I, I might answer that one. Um, it will be the same as what we are currently doing. So we currently do, um, accept complaints in relation to the inappropriate response from a workplace in relation to sexual harassment matters. So that will, that will continue as I discussed earlier, um, our involvement is to look at the workplace systems, uh, and the way that the workplace has actually managed sexual harassment. They might include training, uh, a number of different things. Um, there is the Antidiscrimination commission, of course, um, and they have an active role in managing complaints around sexual harassment as well. So we don't want to take away from, um, from that jurisdiction. Uh, and what we're focused on is not the individual instances of sexual harassment if they've occurred or even determining whether or not they have occurred. Uh, it's a question of looking at how the workplace is managing, um, their, um, uh, sexual harassment issues, uh, whether they have policies and procedures in place to manage that, how they instruct and train staff in relation to, um, sexual harassment.
Chris Bombalas (01:07:56):
Patricia and Christine ask, how would you balance pre-employment screening around the issue of psychosocial resilience and not actually discriminate?
Sam Popple (01:08:06):
Yeah. So I mean, psycho <laugh>, uh, we've talked about the re resilience and, you know, uh, going back to that fish bowl, you know teaching the fish to be resilient in, in a, in a, you know, an environment that's not healthy is really not going to really solve your problems. It's really gonna be very limited and, and you're not gonna be compliant without, um, I would say also screening is not effective. It doesn't work. So I would say not only is it discriminatory, but it's not, it's not effective.
Chris Bombolas (01:08:33):
So we gotta clean up the tank and make sure it's maintained. So keep it healthy, keep it clean, using the fish tank analogy. Yes.
Sam Popple (01:08:41):
And let everybody thrive in that. Yep. You know, everybody, whether that's, you know, somebody who has mental health issues, whether they don't have mental health issues, whether they've got physical issues, whether they've got family, you know, whether they, something happens in their lifetime and that this particular time in their life, they're just struggling a little bit more.
Chris Bombolas (01:08:58):
Okay. Um, from Sam, there are increases in public aggression impacting public services with occupational violence. Does the code cover changes in the social landscape?
Elias Jeta (01:09:10):
Look, I, I, I might, um, I might answer that, um, there are, um, useful in the code some examples of, um, situations where there's increased risk of occupational violence. It is something that's really actively in the forefront of workplace health and safety right now, um, to, um, consider that, uh, and, um, to, to look to see what we can do to assist, but also in investigate, um, if needed, where there have been instances of occupational violence, particularly in the, um, public service areas of health, uh, and, uh, even policing. There, there's, um, there's good scope for, for us as a regulator, I think, to assist in that space, um, as well as, um, responding, um, uh, to complaints.
Sam Popple (01:10:00):
Can I just add to that as well? The, um, you know, we, we starting to move away from Eden, Queensland to calling it occupational violence to work related violence and aggression. And the reason for that is because we know that, you know, obviously violence has that physical component to it, but we also know that where you have that, that aggression, there's that fear-based, that threat um, that, you know, that threat response that you have and that is, can be just as, just as harmful as, or sometimes even more, um, harmful, uh, because it leaves people with fear, uh, you know, and fearful around their, their safety rather than, you know, experiencing that violence. And we know that, you know, um, you know, aggressive episodes that some people may experience from the retail sector or they may experience from, you know, I last pointed out the, the public sector, any of those who deal with the, with the, um, with the public, you know, can be at increased, you know, risk of that. So it's important that organisations actually understand if their organisation is at increased risk, and then what are they doing about that. We have seen some fabulous work going on in hospitals, for instance, where we've seen some tensions rise in emergency departments of where they hold, you know, do better communication of why people are waiting. So I think there's some real opportunities there to, um, to, to manage those risks better.
Chris Bombolas (01:11:17):
Okay. How do you foster a positive culture where you can have healthy debates and conversations without risk of causing psychological harm? You know, tough conversations are inevitable prickly topics, uh, you know, and you, but you don't wanna cause further damage.
Sam Popple (01:11:36):
No, that's right. And I think you can give people the options of, of, you know, outs and these as well. You know, you as a manager or a leader, if you're holding those conversations, you've, you've gotta really find out from your staff what's, what their issues are. So you do need to have those conversations, those tough conversations, but you can still do those very sensitively.
Chris Bombolas (01:11:56):
Should workplaces have processes and procedures in place around neurodiversity, you might explain for us who don't really know what that means. Wait until someone discloses have this. Over to you, Sam
Sam Popple (01:12:12):
So neurodiversity is, is, um, you know, around those individuals who are, uh, wide slightly differently and who, um, you know, may experience, um, uh, you know, life in, in a slightly different way and demonstrate that in a different way, hence the diversity part for neuro. So we, we used to talk about autism as being one of those. Um, we are now really understanding in the diversity and inclusion literature how important it is to have, uh, people who think differently to add to, um, workplaces. And so I would say that, you know, uh, no, nobody has to disclose that they are, um, on the spectrum or they have, you know, they're neurodiverse in much the same way that we wouldn't describe as being neurotypical, Um, you know, and if we go back to that fishbowl analogy, if we are looking at that healthy water, that should be, that should be healthy for everybody. Yeah.
Chris Bombloas (01:13:03):
Okay. Um, what should we do if an employee, uh, and their mental health deteriorates to a point where they can't do their role? They really want to do it, but they just can't.
Sam Popple (01:13:17):
And I think the analogy there is the same for the physical, the physical health. Yep. How would you manage that if was a physical issue? Yeah. So I think that's the same kind of process that you would undertake as you would for a, for a mental health issue.
Chris Bombolas (01:13:29):
How should I respond if a worker raises an issue, uh, or makes a complaint?
Sam Popple (01:13:34):
So I think if it's a psychosocial, um, issue, you know, I think if you are very comfortable in the fact that you've done your risk assessment properly, you know, you've had a look at your hazards and you've had a look at your risk, you wanna see where that sits in with that. If this is a new kind of complaint, then that's something that you maybe want to have a think about talking to other people around. So is this an issue for everybody or is this an issue for just that person? And then you wanna have look and see what controls are in place, uh, already. Um, so this is the importance around reviewing, reviewing control measures in that, in that risk assessment process. And so when something else crops up like this, this is the perfect opportunity to go back right to the beginning and go, okay, what have we got now? And is that enough?
Chris Bombolas (01:14:18):
Last question. Thank you everyone for your questions. Why isn't there a standalone code of practice for bullying or occupational violence?
Sam Popple (01:14:27):
That's a really good question to, uh, to end on. And I think it really speaks to the nature of the fact that these psychosocial hazards don't happen in isolation. We know that there is, um, evidence that demonstrates that where you have bullying or violence and aggression, um, in a workplace, they're often seen with these other more cumulative hazards that underpin that. So we know that where there's poor organisational support, poor manager support, poor organisational change, or high work demands, you're gonna see these in higher rates. So if you're only looking at this in isolation, you're gonna miss the point.
Elias Jeta (01:15:06):
Also, the code itself isn't the only resource that an employer needs to look at when looking at those particular matters. Safe Work Australia have a number of publications in relation to different risk areas, and they're still current, they're still, um, policy, um, for Queensland. Uh, and they still, they really do assist in some of those more specialised, um, risk areas.
Chris Bombolas (01:15:31):
We've gotta wind up our session question without notice, so I'm gonna put you both on the spot.
Sam Popple (01:15:37):
Chris Bombolas (01:15:38):
In summarising one take home tip to leave our audience with from each of you. Come on
Elias Jeta (01:15:47):
Uh, mine is read the code. Yep. Read the code, understand it, apply it, and make it work in your workplace. Uh, and as a regulator that we'll be, more than happy. Um, I think Sam can probably talk about the benefits from doing that. Um, as a regulator, you do that and you're, you're great.
Consultation, consult, consult, consult. You've got lots of people who really clever people in your organisation who know what the issues are. They know what the answers are, talk to them, ask them, they'll tell you.
Chris Bombolas (01:16:19):
Thanks guys. Really appreciate your input. It's been fantastic. And thank you, uh, to you at home for all of your questions or at work, uh, for those we didn't get to. Uh, we will endeavor to update our FAQs online shortly. Thanks again for joining us today. We hope you found this session helpful in understanding how to comply with existing obligations to manage psychosocial risks at work. Remember, the code does not create a new work, health and safety duty, or expand existing duties. Rather, it provides clarity and certainty through practical guidance for duty holders about their existing obligations. To ensure risks to psychological health are eliminated or minimised under the WHS Act. You can learn more about the code and download a range of resources to help support building a mentally healthy workplace at workplace, uh, at worksafe.qld.gov, uh.au. Thanks again for enjoying, uh, for, uh, joining us. Enjoy the rest of your day. As always, work safe, home safe.