Date PostedFebruary 18, 2013

New Report Shows Psychosocial Hazards Need Equal Attention in Workplaces

psychsocialThe Performance Benchmarking of Australian Business Regulation: Occupational Health and Safety report released by the Australian Government has found that psychosocial hazards are given less attention that physical hazards by OHS inspectors and in OHS legislation.

The types of psychosocial hazards that are being referred to in the report include:

  • Stress from the workplace
  • Harassment and bullying
  • Workplace aggression and violence
  • Fatigue
  • All other negative behaviours that can be experienced in the workplace.

According to

WorkCover Queensland Customer Services Manager, Vicki McCarthy says managing psychosocial hazards is just as important as preventing and properly managing physical workplace injuries, and there are warning signs employers should be aware of.

“Employers have a duty of care to protect their workers from all injuries and by being aware of certain behaviours and risk factors, employers can intervene early. They can help the worker to prevent an issue from worsening and developing into a workers’ compensation claim,” Vicki said.

The report also states stress related absenteeism and presenteeism is estimated to cost the Australian economy $14.8 billion per year (1.78% of GDP) (p.312). Presenteeism is defined as physically attending work without being fully present i.e. lacking in concentration, motivation etc. Presenteeism is often associated with “time-wasting” while at work.

“Stress-related absenteeism, presenteeism, poor work performance, lack of motivation, tension between colleagues and undefined goals and roles, are some of the factors that can contribute to a poor psychosocial safety climate.

“So providing clear achievable goals, supporting workers to openly communicate and share ideas, identifying risks early and better managing these before they escalate into problems can lead to a positive work environment.”

The Workplace Health and Safety website states workplaces where psychosocial hazards aren’t properly managed can experience:

  • poor worker health, both physical and psychological
  • breakdown of individual and team relationships
  • poor morale and erosion of worker loyalty and commitment
  • reduced efficiency, productivity, and profitability
  • poor public image and reputation

  • increased costs associated with counselling, worker assistance, mediation
  • increased absenteeism and staff turnover
  • increased costs with recruitment and training of new workers
  • increased workers’ compensation claims and legal costs.


If you have been struggling at work because any of these things are happening to you, what you need to know is that your employer has a legal obligation to protect your health and wellbeing.

The legislation in this area is becoming stronger as there is a growing awareness of how damaging psychosocial hazards can be through the release of reports like the one referred to above.

If you are having issues at work with stress, bullying, violence or other negative behaviours you can get help and you don’t need to keep putting up with it while it damages your health.

Peter Cutforth is a Director at Urban E-Learning, a global elearning and web strategy firm based in George St Brisbane. Peter's interests extend to training, safety and compliance, online marketing, and Mobile Apps.

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