Victoria’s proposed Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations (Proposed Regulations) were released yesterday and, if approved by the Minister, are slated to commence operation on 1 July 2022.
Their introduction follows a period in which workers’ compensation claims for mental injury have persistently increased across Australia. In Victoria, such claims increased by 20% between 2017 and 2019, and now constitute a record high of 14% of overall claims.
What will constitute a psychosocial hazard?
The Proposed Regulations define psychosocial hazard as any factor(s) in:
- The work design;
- The systems of work;
- The management of work;
- The carrying out the work;
- Personal or work-related interactions,
‘that may arise in the work environment and may cause an employee to experience one or more negative psychological responses that create a risk to their health and safety’.
Examples given include bullying, sexual harassment, aggression or violence, exposure to traumatic events or content, high job demands, low job control, remote or isolated work, poor organisational change management, poor workplace relationships and, low recognition and reward (amongst other things).
What do the Proposed Regulations require employers to do?
The Proposed Regulations require employers to:
- Identify psychosocial hazards;
- Eliminate, so far as is reasonably practicable, any risk associated with a psychosocial hazard. If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, the employer must reduce this risk, so far as is reasonably practicable by altering the:
- Management of work;
- Systems of work;
- Work design;
- Workplace environment;
- Information, instruction or training; or
- A combination of the control measures.
An employer cannot rely exclusively on information, instruction or training unless the control measures from (a) to (d) are not reasonably practicable. If using a combination of control measures, information, instruction or training must not be the “predominant control measure used”;
- Review (and revise where needed) risk control measures; and
- Develop a written prevention plan, if psychosocial hazards are identified concerning aggression, violence, bullying, exposure to traumatic content or events, high job demands or sexual harassment.
Additionally, employers with 50 employees or more, at any time during the reporting period (there are 2 reporting periods in a calendar year) must create, keep for 5 years, and provide to the Authority upon request a written report of any complaints involving bullying, aggression or violence, or sexual harassment.
What should employers do to prepare?
From 1 September 2023, a failure to have the written plan (for an employer who is required to do so by the Proposed Regulations) may constitute a failure to comply with the primary duty under section 21 Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic). Failure by an employer to report to the Authority (if required to do so by the Proposed Regulations), keep and have it available for inspection will become an offence against the Regulations (for which the maximum penalty is 300 penalty units for a body corporate or $54,522 using the current penalty unit value).
Employers should, if they haven’t already, undertake psychosocial hazard identification looking at work systems and design, management and carrying out of work and interpersonal interactions. To do so they may be assisted by reviewing available data such as that from sick leave, employee turnover and workers’ compensation data as well as culture surveys and exit interview information amongst other things. As always, consultation is crucial in the process of hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control.
Comments regarding the Proposed Regulations and Proposed RIS can be made online until 31 March 2022.
 Page 29 of the RIS – Proposed OHS Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations | Engage Victoria