21 Mar Are you really compliant or at risk of being exposed?
It’s 2023… and it’s illegal not to deal with psychosocial issues in the workplace.
New work health and safety regulations are here. A person conducting a business or undertaking is now required by law to eliminate or minimise psychosocial risks, as much as is reasonably practical. This now puts psychosocial matters on the same footing as other significant health and safety hazards such as falls or operating machinery.
On 23 December 2022, The Hon. Bill Johnston, reminded us in a media statement that all businesses now have access to various codes of practices linked to the legislative provision of a psychosocial safe workplace. There was a special mention in the release relating to workplace mental health issues.
Michelle Baxter, CEO at Safe Work Australia says, “That 2023 will present the biggest challenge to build and support the capability of employers to identify and manage the risks from psychosocial hazards”.
The new workplace of today will not just happen. It will be built through fostering values that encompass a safe, inclusive, and respectful workplace. It will be where employees will be valued and feel supported to speak up. The new safe and well-functioning workplace will aim to create lasting behavioural change.
This is a great ideal – now legislated. But what are your starting reference points within the workplace? What is the current psychosocial profile of your workforce? What elements are you to monitor, address and then support? Does there need to be an audit of these matters? Once this is done, how are you going to know if things have improved, deteriorated or stayed the same?
Data and direct evidence of these factors must be the safest way to manage this emerging challenge for all workplaces.
Engaging assessments for levels of depression, anxiety and stress in the workplace will give you an indication of the existing head health profiles of your employees. Through these assessments, psychosocial elements can be monitored. This approach brings you one step closer to complying with the new legislation.
Benchmark data is critical in the process of identifying and mitigating psychosocial hazards.
Additional assessments that address overall levels of wellbeing, activity, belonging and commitment levels could also form part of the compliance process. These psychosocial data can then be combined with physical health and safety data on the employee, thereby offering a more complete picture of risk.
A safe psychosocial workplace in an ideal world should not increase the levels of anxiety. It should support those who may be stressed or depressed. It should overtly support those in need and foster the positive nature of those who are feeling comfortable within the workplace. But how will you know?
This “new” workplace is one where acts of professionalism, integrity, trust, fairness, openness, and understanding should be the norm. It should be a safe environment. People should be treated the same irrespective of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, size, age, or country of origin. Employers should recognise that employee safety, health, wellbeing, and lifestyle balance directly impact professional success and productivity.
Our data suggests that there are differences in how genders respond to workplaces. There are different patterns of stress responses – linked to age and gender. There are other physical habits and behaviours, like sleep, that will impact the mental health of the workforce and subsequent performance.
Our data also suggests that managing the risks in the workplace is complicated. However, with a clear set of indicators, across a range of elements related to psychological wellbeing, health and safety, you are complying with the requirements of the legislation and gaining a greater insight into your employees.
Accepting the challenge posed by the legislation and getting it right – has beneficial consequences. Monitoring the implication of any interventions or support will enable employees to develop a sense of integrity and trust. Teams will become more close-knit improving the culture of the organisation as well as employees becoming healthier and happier.
Respect in the workplace is another element in this matrix of psychosocial risks. This element does depend on a shared understanding and requires a conscious effort by everyone to increase positive behaviours. But what behaviours need to be improved? What risk factors need to be monitored? What indicators do you wish to use in your workplace to ensure you are complying with the legislation?
To explore how our system of collecting data and monitoring behaviours could work for you and your organisation, or to talk about how we can assist you in complying with new legislation, contact us:
Dr Graeme Wright
Managing Director, Optimum Health and Management Services
+61 419 904 305