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Managing psychosocial hazards at work

Psychosocial hazards can cause psychological and physical harm. On average, work-related psychological injuries have longer recovery times, higher costs, and require more time away from work.

Managing the risks associated with psychosocial hazards not only protects workers, it also decreases the disruption associated with staff turnover and absenteeism, and may improve broader organisational performance and productivity.

Under the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws, a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), an employer, must manage psychosocial risks at work (e.g. risks to mental health).

To assist in managing the psychosocial hazards at work, Safe Work Australia introduced a new Code of Practice in July 2022 – Managing psychosocial hazards at work.

A Code of Conduct provides practical guidance on how to achieve the standards of work health and safety required under the WHS Act and Regulations.

Essentially it is the basis of good practice in assessing the risk.

What is a psychosocial hazard?

A psychosocial hazard is a hazard that may cause psychological and physical harm, such as:

Job demands Intense or sustained high mental, physical or emotion effort required to do the job. Work hours which do not allow adequate sleep or recovery time.

Unreasonable or excessive time pressure or role overload.

Low job control Level of autonomy not matched to employee abilities.
Employees have limited ability to adapt the way they work in changing or new situation.Employee have little control over aspects of the work including how or when the work is done.
Poor support Work where employees have inadequate support including practical assistance and emotional support from management and colleagues.
Poor organisational
change management
Insufficient consultation, insufficient support, access to information or training at key times during change.
Inadequate reward
and recognition
High level of unconstructive negative feedback from management. Jobs with low positive feedback or imbalances between effort and recognition.
Poor organisational justice Inconsistent, unfair, discriminatory or inequitable management decisions and application of policies, including poor procedural justice
Traumatic events or material Experiencing fear or extreme risks to the health and safety of themselves or others. Reading, hearing or seeing accounts of traumatic events, abuse or neglect.
Poor physical environment Exposure to unpleasant or hazardous working environments.
Violence an aggression Violence or threats of violence from students, parents or others
Bullying Repeated unreasonable behaviour directed towards an employer or group of workers.
Harassment including sexual harassment Harassment due to personal characteristics such as age, disability, race, nationality, religion, political affiliation, sex, relationship status, family or carer responsibilities, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.
Sexual harassment – any unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome request for sexual favours or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, in circumstances where a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would anticipate the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated
Conflict or poor workplace relationships and interactions Frequent disagreement, disparaging or rude comments, from either one person or multiple people. Inappropriately excluding an employee from work-related activities.


Why haven’t you heard of these hazards being reported?

  • Employees often see the hazards as “part of the job” or the work culture and put up with them.
  • Perhaps they don’t believe it’s serious enough to report to their line manager.
  • Don’t have time to report frequently occurring hazards, incidents or interactions over other work that is required to be completed.
  • Employees might think that reports will be ignored, or not handled respectfully and confidentiality.
  • A fear they will be blamed or believe reporting may expose them to additional harm, discrimination or disadvantage.
  • Do not know or understand how to report a hazard or an incident.

If you report a psychosocial (or any WHS) hazard, what should happen next?

The hazard should be assessed to determine the duration, frequency and severity of the hazard by your school’s WHS officer.

Once the assessment of risks has been undertaken, an appropriated and recognised hazard control measure needs to be implemented by the employer and this requires the employer to consider the best combination of control measures for your workplace.

Use our 5 step guide if you experience psychosocial hazards at work:

1. Document what you are experiencing daily and the actions you take.
2. Report it to your school as a priority.
3. Make an appointment to see your doctor to discuss what you are experiencing and how this is affecting you at work.
4. Contact the IEU to assist.
5. Demand a response from your employer.


Psychosocial injury and illness at work is something that the IEU assists members with daily.

Don’t be a statistic, report it and demand a response. The IEU is here to help members take action to resolve their workplace issues – call our office on 8410 0122 or email if you require assistance with psychosocial or other workplace hazards.