Queensland's new Code of Practice into psychosocial hazards in the workplace17 November 2022
Businesses trading in Queensland need to be aware of a crucial development in their obligations for managing the exposure of their workforce to psychosocial risks.
The Queensland Government has introduced a new Code of Practice (Code) under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, labelled Managing the risk of psychosocial hazards at work, which is unique to the State. The Code is due to commence on 1 April 2023, the same day as other new laws come into effect about a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking' (PCBU) being required to manage psychosocial hazards through risk management provisions of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (Qld) (Regulation).
Section 55A of the Regulation defines a psychosocial hazard is as follows:
“…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 behaviours and may cause psychological harm, whether or not the hazard may also cause physical harm. In severe cases exposure to psychosocial hazards can lead to death by suicide.”
When introducing the Code our Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace recognised research that “workers benefit from psychologically healthy workplaces through better individual health, increased job satisfaction, commitment, positive attitudes toward self-development, and lower rates of work-related physical injuries”.
This Code is analogous to the Federal Model Code of Practice. However, it is more extensive and features case study scenarios. Control measures for psychosocial hazards and risks such as work overload, poor support, isolated work, workplace violence and other hazards, are specifically discussed. The Code will be legally enforceable and aims to address psychological health risks at work.
The purpose of the Code is to provide practical guidance to employers and workers to assist them in understanding their responsibilities and rights on this increasingly prevalent work health and safety risk. Drafting of the Code commenced after a national review showed that countless employers were uncertain of how to manage the psychosocial health and safety of their workers and their duties surrounding this issue.
However, the Code does not cover any of the following:
- duties and obligations in related legislation (for example, workers’ compensation laws, fair work laws and anti-discrimination laws – see Appendix 1),
- workplaces captured by other safety legislation (for example, the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 (Qld) and the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999 (Qld)), and
- programs to promote and support mental health (non-work-related) delivered at work, which are not required under work health and safety laws.
We recommend employers review the Code to ensure their own workplace policies and practices meet, at a minimum, this new enforceable standard. Sparke Helmore Lawyers is well versed in assisting employers to complete a gap analysis on their existing safety management systems to identify required improvements.