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Proposed OHS Regulations (Vic) Amendments for Psychological Health

The Victorian Government's proposed changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations (Vic) (the Proposed Regulations) are expected to commence in July 2022.

We already have OHS obligations in place to provide a physically and psychologically safe work environment however, additional regulations will allow WorkSafe to:

  • Create a clear, consistent framework providing processes for managing risks specific to mental health.

  • Send a strong message to employers, elevating the importance of mental health risks to that of physical risks.

  • prescribe additional obligations.

The most recent ISO OHS Standard 45001:2018 was updated to expand the definition of hazards to include: physical, chemical, biological, psychosocial, mechanical, electrical, or based on movement and energy.

Section Hazard identification of the standard requires ISO 45001 compliant organisations to:

Establish, implement and maintain processes for hazard identification that is ongoing,

proactive, and takes into account, how work is organized, social factors (including

workload, work hours, victimization, harassment, and bullying), leadership, and the

culture in the organization.

What are psychosocial hazards?

Factors that may cause an employee to experience negative psychological responses that put their health and safety at risk.

  • bullying;

  • high job demands;

  • sexual harassment;

  • low role clarity;

  • poor support;

  • exposure to traumatic events or content;

  • poor organisational change management;

  • aggression or violence;

  • low recognition and reward; and

  • poor workplace relationships.

What will change?

The changes introduce strict obligations for employers:

  • in the management of risks to employees' mental health,

  • duties to identify and control psychosocial hazards

  • to implement "prevention plans.”

  • with > 50 employees to "report psychosocial complaints" (e.g. aggression, violence, bullying, and sexual harassment) to WorkSafe every 6 months.

The emerging issues

Changes in work structures, international standards, community, and employee expectations have contributed to an increase in the severity and frequency of incidents. The Delloite's Regulatory Impact Statement confirms:

Claims for mental injuries in Victoria increased 20 percent between 2017 and 2019

(Chart ii). While claims have decreased slightly during the coronavirus pandemic (likely

due to lockdown restrictions and their impact on workplace activity) the proportion of

mental injury claims to total claims was the highest in recent history, reaching 14%.

WorkSafe forecasts that claim numbers for mental injury will continue to grow over the

next five years.

Relative to other injuries, mental injuries can be some of the costliest, which is largely

due to the longer duration of claims. In Victoria, the average duration of a claim for

mental injury was 37.5 weeks in 2020. This is more than double the average duration for

other injuries. According to SafeWork Australia, the typical time off work for mental

injury spans approximately 15.3 weeks compared to an average of 5.5 for all other

claims. In 2021, the average cost of a mental injury claim was approximately $220,000

(Chart iii). This cost has more than doubled over the last decade.

What the process may look like

Below shows the proposed process for identifying and managing psychosocial hazards. You may notice that most of the process is very similar to how we identify and manage traditional/physical hazards in the workplace.

The two steps highlighted in red are specific for psychosocial hazards:

  1. All organisations will need to determine if identified psychosocial hazards are one of the 'higher risk' hazards. If yes, a Prevention Plan must be developed and monitored.

  2. Organisations with over 50 employees or contractors, will need to report incidents for certain 'higher risk' psychosocial hazards every six months.

In practice, we do not yet know exactly what the Prevention Plans and incident reporting will look like. We expect further material and advice to be provided as the legislation comes into effect to guide organisations in understanding their specific obligations.

When will this commence?

We currently only have the DRAFT amendment, however, after a thorough consultation process, WorkSafe is reviewing and considering all submissions to amend the regulations where appropriate. The current timeline is listed below, with the new regulations hoping to be approved by the minister in the next few weeks, and the new regulations to commence in July (or possibly August) this year.

Where do you find more information?

Proposed OHS Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations, including

• Regulatory Impact Statement

• Summary of changes

• Frequently asked questions

For assistance in becoming certified to the ISO 45001 OHS Standard, please call us on 0488 225 445 or click here for a quote today

We are looking forward to hearing from you and helping you reach this new level of compliance!

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