Alongside other unions, the NSWNMA has been lobbying for workplace safety reforms around psychosocial risks since 2018. Thanks to these efforts, new laws introduced by the NSW government take effect from 1 October 2022, strengthening requirements for employers to manage psychosocial hazards and risks in workplaces.
Pyschosocial risks or hazards are defined as aspects of work and workplace situations that may cause a stress response which can in turn lead to pyschological or physical harm. Examples of how a pyschosocial risks may occur in a workplace include:
- the way the tasks or job are designed, organised, managed and supervised
- tasks or jobs where there are inherent psychosocial hazards and risks
- the equipment, working environment or requirements to undertake duties in physically hazardous environments, and
- social factors at work, workplace relationships and social interactions.
Under the new Work Health and Safety Amendment Regulation 2022, employers will be explicitly required to implement control measures for pychosocial risks.
The news laws will require employers to:
- Identify psychosocial hazards that could cause a risk to health and safety (e.g. work overload; bullying; violence; lack of support; poor change management, poor organisational justice etc – for a more detailed list see the code of practice or the NSWNMA factsheet on psychosocial hazards)
- Once identified, the employer must
- Eliminate risks to health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable, and
- If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate risks to health and safety—minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable
- The employer must ensure that the control measure/s implemented are and remain fit for purpose and suitable for the nature of the work
- The employer must review and revise control measures to maintain a work environment that is without risks to health and safety (there are certain times that employers must do this, including on request by a HSR).
These new laws will be legally binding for NSW employers and means that workers, including nurses and midwives, will be able raise pyschosocial risk matters as safety matters and employers must address them.
This new regulation is supported by the Code of Practice – Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work which was gazetted in 2021. The Code outlines details about what psychosocial risks are and what is expected from employers to manage them.
The code of practice lists role overload as a key psychosocial risk and defines role overload as having “too much to do in a set time or with insufficient workers”. The code of practice also detailed several health case studies with nurses and midwives which highlighted the need for additional staffing and improved skill mix.
The NSW instrument states that employers must manage psychosocial risks in accordance with the risk management provisions of the NSW Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017.
When determining which controls to implement, employers must have regard to:
- the duration, frequency and severity of the exposure of workers and others to psychosocial hazards;
- how the hazards might interact or combine;
- the design of work; how work is managed, organised and supported;
- the workplace’s design, layout and environmental conditions;
- the design, layout and conditions of workers’ accommodation;
- the workplace’s plant, substances and structures;
- workplace interactions or behaviours; and
- the information, training, instruction and supervision provided to workers.
Do you believe psychosocial hazards are causing risks to your health and safety at work? Read more on what nurses and midwives can do in this Psychosocial Hazards Factsheet developed by the NSWNMA.
Free webinar series for Safe Work Month
As part of Safe Work Month in October this year, the NSWNMA is hosting a free 4-part webinar series to assist nurses and midwives with information about work health and safety rights and how to have a stronger voice in workplaces.
The second webinar in the series focuses on psychosocial risks and mental health of nurses and midwives. Register here for the series, you only need to register once to RSVP for all four sessions.