Queensland's code addressing psychological health risks takes effect

‘First legally enforceable code of its type in Australia,’ says government

Queensland's code addressing psychological health risks takes effect

Australia's first ever legally enforceable code of practice on addressing psychological health risks at work takes effect on Saturday.

Queensland's new Managing the Risk of Psychosocial Hazards at Work Code of Practice is a 67-page document containing practical examples on managing psychosocial hazards in the workplace, industry-specific case studies, as well as helpful templates that businesses can tailor.

It aims to directly address the psychosocial hazards at work. Common examples of these hazards that may arise or are related to work include:

  • High and/or low job demands
  • Low job control
  • Poor support
  • Low role clarity
  • Poor workplace relationships
  • Remote or isolated work
  • Traumatic events
  • Violence and aggression
  • Bullying
  • Harassment including sexual harassment

Legally enforceable

According to the Queensland government, the code is the "first legally enforceable code of its type in Australia."

This may be admissible in court proceedings under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011.

"Courts may regard a code of practice as evidence of what is known about hazard, risk or control and may rely on the code in determining what is reasonably practicable in the circumstances to which the code relates," the code's foreword said.

It may also be used by an inspector when issuing improvement or prohibition notices in cases of non-compliance, according to the code.

Offers guidance 

The code will provide employers across the state with practical information and guidance to create mentally healthy workplaces, according to the Queensland government.

It was developed to help employers prevent psychological injuries, which aren't as obvious as physical risks and hazards, said Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace.

"That's why we created the code – to protect workers, support businesses to have a greater awareness of what signs and symptoms to look for, and to provide a framework to minimise risks," Grace said in a statement.

The code also offers advice on how to comply with existing health and safety obligations, according to the Queensland government. It comes after a national review found that many employers were unsure about their duties on managing psychological health and safety risks at work.

Research cited by the Queensland government also showed that employers are losing an estimated $11 billion from psychological health hazards.

"Research has shown 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," Grace said.

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