Changes in Western Australia's Work Health and Safety laws have highlighted the critical need for businesses to prioritise the effective management of psychosocial hazards within the workplace.
Changes in Western Australia's Work Health and Safety laws have highlighted the critical need for businesses to prioritise the effective management of psychosocial hazards within the workplace. Failure to address these hazards adequately can result in prosecution and severe penalties.
Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2020 (WA), businesses and their decision-makers have been assigned expanded duties and obligations to ensure the health and safety of individuals in their workplace, including their mental well-being. Neglecting these responsibilities can lead to significant penalties and, in some cases, even imprisonment.
Psychosocial hazards encompass risks to the health and safety of workers and others in the workplace arising from factors related to task design, organisation, management, supervision, working environment, and social dynamics. These include common examples such as workplace stress, poor support and job demands. They also encompass structural issues like poor organisational change management, inadequate reward or recognition, remote or isolated work, and poor physical environment. At the extreme end of the spectrum, workers may face severe challenges such as bullying, harassment and exposure to traumatic materials.
Businesses are legally required to actively manage psychosocial risks and implement control measures to eliminate or minimise these risks to the greatest extent feasible. It is crucial that they recognise that psychosocial hazards carry the same weight as physical hazards in terms of importance and compliance requirements.
Moreover, under the Work Health and Safety Act, individuals in positions of authority have added responsibilities to diligently ensure compliance with the law. Failing to meet these obligations can lead to investigation and prosecution, even if the incident occurred outside the immediate workplace or if the business is not directly responsible.
The consequences for non-compliance can be severe, with businesses facing fines of up to $3,500,000 and individuals facing fines of up to $680,000 and up to 5 years of imprisonment. In cases where duties are not discharged, charges of industrial manslaughter may apply, carrying penalties of up to 20 years' imprisonment and fines of up to $5,000,000 for individuals or $10,000,000 for corporations.
It is crucial for businesses to prioritise managing psychosocial hazards promptly. Excusing stress and anxiety as unavoidable work consequences is no longer acceptable. Businesses are legally required to proactively address these hazards and protect employee wellbeing. Robust policies and procedures are necessary to identify, assess, control, and monitor these risks. Furthermore, investing in workplace reviews to ensure compliance and best practice not only benefits employees by improving their job satisfaction and retention, but also contributes to the overall success of a company.
At Pragma Lawyers, we recognise the challenges businesses face in complying with these new requirements, which is why our firm is offering specialised fixed-fee audits in collaboration with our sister firm Norfolk Workplace Consulting. Drawing on our extensive knowledge in employment, industrial relations, and HR matters, these comprehensive services encompass conducting cultural and organisational reviews and auditing risk levels to safeguard businesses from potential prosecution.
If you are interested in learning more about Pragma's fixed-fee audit for psychosocial hazards, contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org or (08) 6188 3340.
Lastly, in my latest article on the Pragma Lawyers website, I offer analysis and guidance on how businesses can minimise compliance risks. You can read the article here.