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The Proposed Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations


Psychosocial hazards in the workplace can cause psychological and physical injuries to employees. Work-related psychological injuries usually have longer recovery times, higher costs, and more time away from work than physical injuries. 

Under the proposed Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations (the “Proposed Regulations”), employers will be required to undertake the same risk management approach that is used to manage physical hazards, as psychosocial hazards. 

   Management commitment - four steps to preventionSource: Safe Work Australia  


Why Manage Psychosocial Hazards? 

Not only is proactively managing psychosocial hazards in the workplace a legal obligation, it makes good business sense. Eliminating or reducing risks to mental health has many potential benefits, including: 

  • Reductions in: absenteeism and presenteeism, workplace incidents, workers compensation claims, staff turnover (and recruitment and training costs) and customer complaints. 
  • Increases in: staff mental health and wellbeing, productivity and efficiency, effective decision making, morale and job satisfaction, staff retention and loyalty, and client satisfaction.  

Resource 1: Access the Proposed Regulations here:

Duties Imposed Under the Proposed Regulations 

Duty 1: Identification of Psychosocial Hazards (s448A)

•    An employer, so far as reasonably practicable, must identify psychosocial hazards (s448A).

Example Psychosocial Hazards

Psychosocial Hazard Definitions provided by Safe Work Australia (unless otherwise specified)
Bullying Repeated, unreasonable behaviour by a person which is directed at another person or group of other persons that creates a risk to health and safety (defined in s5.)
Sexual harrassment A person sexually harasses another person if he or she—

a)    makes an unwelcome sexual advance, or an unwelcome request for sexual favours, to the other person; or

b)    engages in any other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the other person—

in circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated that the other person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.
conduct of a sexual nature includes—

a)    subjecting a person to any act of physical intimacy;

b)    making, orally or in writing, any remark or statement with sexual connotations to a person or about a person in his or her presence;

c)    making any gesture, action or comment of a sexual nature in a person's presence (defined in s5).

Aggression or violence
  • Violence, or threats of violence from other workers, customers, patients or clients (including assault). 
  • Aggressive behaviour such as yelling or physical intimidation.
Exposure to Traumatic Events or Content
  • Experiencing fear or extreme risks to the health or safety of themselves or others. 
  • Exposure to natural disasters, or seriously injured or deceased persons. 
  • Reading, hearing or seeing accounts of traumatic events, abuse or neglect. 
  • Supporting victims or investigating traumatic events, abuse or neglect.
High Job Demands Sustained or repeated physical, mental or emotional effort which is unreasonable or frequently exceeds the employee's skills or capacity (defined in s5).
Low Job Demands Sustained low physical, mental or emotional effort is required to do the job (e.g., too little to do, or highly repetitive or monotonous tasks which require low levels of thought processing or little variety).
Low Job Control Workers have little control over aspects of the work including how or when the job is done. 
Poor Support Tasks or jobs where workers have inadequate support including practical assistance and emotional support from managers and colleagues, or inadequate training, tools and resources for a task.
Poor Organisational Justice Inconsistent, unfair, discriminatory or inequitable management decisions and application of policies, including poor procedural justice.
Low Role Clarity Uncertainty, frequent changes, conflicting roles or ambiguous responsibilities and expectations.
Poor Environmental Conditions Exposure to unpleasant or hazardous working environments.
Remote or Isolated Work Working in locations with long travel times, or where access to help, resources or communications is difficult or limited.
Poor Organisational Change Management
  • Insufficient consultation, consideration of new hazards or performance impacts when planning for, and implementing, change. 
  • Insufficient support, information or training during change. 
  • Not communicating key information to workers during periods of change.
Low Recognition and Reward
  • Jobs with low positive feedback or imbalances between effort and recognition. 
  • High level of unconstructive negative feedback from managers or customers. 
  • Low skills development opportunity or underused skills.
Poor Workplace Relationships
  • Poor workplace relationships or interpersonal conflict between colleagues or from other businesses, clients or customers. 
  • Frequent disagreements, disparaging or rude comments, either from one person or multiple people, such as from clients or customers. A worker can be both the subject and the source of this behaviour. 
  • Inappropriately excluding a worker from work-related activities.

This list is not exhaustive. Some workers are likely to be exposed to a combination of psychosocial hazards; some risks may be constantly present, while others arise sporadically. 

Each of these psychosocial hazards can cause psychological or physical harm or injury.

  • Psychological harm or injuries from psychosocial hazards include anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder and sleep disorders.
  • Physical injuries from psychosocial hazards include musculoskeletal injury, chronic disease, and physical injury following fatigue-related workplace incidences.

Resource 2: Learn more about psychosocial hazards from WorkSafe Victoria here:

How To Identify Psychosocial Hazards

You can identify psychosocial hazards and risks by:

  • Consulting with employees: Under the Proposed Regulations there is a duty to consult with employees in identifying psychosocial hazards. Individual consultation could include individual discussions, focus groups, toolbox discussions, team meetings, or using a survey tool to gather information from staff. It is important to consult with all workers, and in particular those with vulnerabilities – including young workers, those from CALD backgrounds, and LGBTIQA+ workers, who are more likely to be directly affected by particular psychosocial hazards. 
  • Observe workplace behaviours: Inspect your workplace and take note of how workers interact.
  • Review relevant information and records: e.g., sick leave, employee turnover and workers’ compensation data as well as culture surveys and exist interview information.

Resource 3: The People at Work Survey is a free and validated tool that can be used to anonymously assess psychosocial hazards in your workplace. It is Australia’s only validated and evidence-based psychosocial risk assessment survey tool. Learn more here: 

Duty 2: Control of Risk (s448B)

  • An employer, so far as is reasonably practicable, must eliminate any risk associated with a psychosocial hazard. 
  • If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate a risk associated with a psychosocial hazard, the employer must reduce the risk so far as reasonably practicable by – 
  1. altering the management of work, the plant, the systems of work, the work design or the workplace environment; or
  2. using information, instruction or training; or
  3. A combination of (1) and (2).
  • An employer can only exclusively use the control measures in (2) (information, instruction or training) if none of the measures in (1) are reasonably practicable. 
  • If a combination of control measures are used, using information, instruction or training must not be the predominant measure.

Examples of Risk Controls

Psychosocial Hazard Example Control
Aggression & Violence Regularly evaluate work practices to determine if any contribute to patron aggression. 
High Job Demands Hold regular team meetings to discuss projected workload for the following week and address anticipated absences.
Low Job Demands  Rotate job tasks for repetitive tasks.
Exposure to Traumatic Events or Material Coordinate and schedule tasks at traumatic scenes so workers are not exposed to unnecessary trauma.
Low Job Control Include employees in decision-making about the way they do their work.
Workplace Bullying Provide policies and clear guidelines on appropriate workplace behaviour.
Poor Organizational Justice Ensure workplace rules are applied fairly, consistently, and in an unbiased manner.
Poor Organizational Change Management Involve employees in the change process via communication and consultation.
Low Recognition and Reward Ensure recognition and rewards are appropriate and relevant.

The greater the risks, the more that is required to be done to eliminate or minimise it. This may mean one, or a combination of control measures is required. 

Resource 4: Review example control measures from Safe Work Australia here: 

Resource 5: Review example control measures from WorkSafe Victoria here: 
Consultation is Required: There is a duty to consult with employees in respect of making decisions about measures to be taken to control risks to health and safety. Effective consultation with workers improves decision-making about health and safety and assists in reducing work-related injuries. Workers may have practical suggestions or potential solutions to address those hazards. 

Resource 6: WorkSafe Victoria provides a step-by-step worksheet for employers to identify, assess and control psychosocial hazard here:  

Duty 3: Review of Risk Control Measures (448C)

  • An employer must review and, if necessary, revise any measures implemented to control risks associated with psychosocial hazards:
    • before any alteration is made to any thing, process or system of work that is likely to result in changes to risks associated with psychosocial hazards; or
    •  if new or additional information about a psychosocial hazard becomes available to the employer; or 
    • if an employee, or a person on behalf of an employee, reports a psychological injury or a psychosocial hazard to the employer; or  
    • after any incident occurs that involves one or more psychosocial hazards; or
    • if, for any other reason, the risk control measures do not adequately control the risks associated with a psychosocial hazard; or 
    • after receiving a request from a H&S representative. 

Duty 4: Written Prevention Plans (s448D)

  • A written prevention plan must be implemented where an employer identifies one more of the following as psychosocial hazards: aggression and violence, bullying, exposure to traumatic content or events, high job demands or sexual harassment.
  • This plan must: identify the risk associated with the hazard; include the measures to the control the risk; include an implementation plan for any identified measures; detail consultation taken. 

Duty 5: Duty to Report for Employers with 50+ Employees (s448E)

  • The Proposed Regulations set out two reporting periods: 1 January to 30 June and 1 July to 31 December of each calendar year. 
  • Within 30 days after the end of each reporting period, employers with more than 50 employees (at any point in time during the reporting period) must provide WorkSafe Victoria with a de-identified report with information about each reportable psychosocial complaint the employer received during the reporting period.
  • Reportable psychosocial complaints are complaints involving: aggression or violence, bullying, or sexual harassment.
  • The report must be in writing and include information in relation to each reportable psychosocial complaint the employer has received during the reporting period, including each psychosocial hazard involved; gender of persons involved; and a description of the workplace relationship between the persons involved. 


How Can My Workplace Prepare?

  1. Register for updates about the Proposed Regulations at:
  2. Review existing safety management systems and policies to assess the extent to which they address psychosocial hazards. 
  3. Gain senior leadership involvement and commitment. Not only is managing psychosocial hazards a legal requirement, it has many benefits for business. Leaders, through their governance arrangements and resourcing decisions, both directly and indirectly can impact how psychosocial risks are controlled. 
  4. Start identifying all existing and potential psychosocial hazards within the workplace. Consult with employees and consider any reportable psychosocial complaints that have been made. 
  5. Focus on building a culture of psychological safety – where employees believe they can speak up without risk of punishment or humiliation. Encourage employees to report psychosocial hazards. Ensure managers are trained to receive this information. Read more about how to create a culture of psychological safety. 
  6. Start to identify control measures (Resource 5). Prioritise controls for aggression & violence, bullying, exposure to traumatic content or events, high job demands, sexual harassment.  
  7. Sign up to WorkSafe Victoria’s WorkWell Toolkit to access practical resources, tools and information for preventing mental injury in the workplace (Resource 7). 
  8. Contact ARV’s Mental Health Clinician/Consultant, Adele Bergin, as part of the Partners in Wellbeing Program, for free support and advice. Email: 

Resource 7: Worksafe Victoria’s Workwell Toolkit: 


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