Reducing Psychosocial Hazards, Injuries and Claims

by Jan 17, 2023All Posts, WH&S

Based on national data received and analysed by Safe Work Australia (2021), 8% of all work-related claims are attributed to psychosocial injuries, ranking as one of the top 4 causes for work-related injuries and disease within Australia in 2020. These statistics demonstrate the growing importance to increase awareness and preventative efforts to identify and eliminate psychosocial hazards within the workplace, otherwise we will see these figures rise and impact the national workforce.

What is a Psychosocial Hazard?

A psychosocial hazard is anything in the working environment that causes an individual high stress that leads to the development of physical or psychological harm such as; anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress or sleep disorder, fatigue or musculoskeletal injury and/or chronic disease.

Psychosocial hazards in the workplace vary and are inclusive of:

  • Mismanaged working environments causing stress such as, high job demands, lack of support, and inadequate employee consideration or recognition of efforts;
  • Equipment, substances, and structures that negatively impact the working environment such as, loud noises and production of excessive dust;
  • Poor physical working environments such as, remote or isolated conditions; and
  • Workplace relationships, interactions, and behaviours such as, bullying, harassment, discrimination, and poor organisational culture.

It has been identified by Safe Work Australia that you can reduce the likelihood of psychosocial injury by improving:

  • Task and role demands. Matching employee ability and capacity to expectations and demands, so as to not overload or overwhelm;
  • Work processes and systems. Making organisation process and structures clear, accessible and easy to navigate;
  • Design and layout of environmental conditions inclusive of accommodation, maintenance and layout of plant to reduce negative impacts;
  • Relationships within a team. Fostering supportive and positive leadership and relationships; and
  • The quality of training efforts and conducting these regularly to inform and raise awareness of the psychosocial hazards and employee responsibilities surrounding such.

In some working environments the psychosocial hazards are greater and somewhat unavoidable due to the nature of the work and the implications of the associated environmental factors. Regardless, employers need to be aware of and to manage these, not only for the well-being of employees and company culture, but also because of the hefty consequences that can result if ignored.

A recent case brought in August 2020 saw a sizeable monetary consequence, in which an employee filed for compensation of damages for psychosocial injury in response to the circumstance surrounding dismissal. It was determined that the employment contract and duty of care were breached as the employer failed to follow the company disciplinary process accordingly and that the treatment of the employee was unwarranted and unprofessional. The judge found that should the employer have handled the situation more ‘sensitively’ and ‘fairly’ the employee would not have entered such a serious psychiatric state. As a result, the employee was entitled to approximately $1, 733, 119 to compensate past and future damages and economic loss.

Do not allow your workplace culture to slip and be impacted by cultivating psychosocial hazards, but rather protect your employees and ensure that they are receiving the support, training, and assistance to manage their workload and expectations. Assurance HR Management act as a third-party consultant for many businesses across Tasmania, with the capacity to help you with WHS and HR Reviews, Training, Compensation Claims, and Conflict Resolution.  Contact us today on 1800 577 515 to discuss your business specific needs. 

Elisha v Vision Australia Ltd [2022] VSC 754 (13 December 2022) (austlii.edu.au)

Safe Work Australia. (2021). Key work health and safety statistics Australian 2020 – 21. https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-10/Key%20work%20health%20and%20safety%20statistics%20Australia%202021.pdf

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