Mental health as a WHS risk: 5 key steps you need to take now

09 Sep 2022
10:35 - 11:20

Mental health as a WHS risk: 5 key steps you need to take now

While it has always been part of the model WHS laws, mental health as a WHS risk is a key issue for safety professionals for 2021. It covers a range of matters including bullying, fatigue, stress, violence and the impact of sexual harassment. There have been a range of recent legal changes, with more to come.

It is key for safety professionals to remain at the forefront of these and this session will identify the top five ‘need to know’ issues about the mental health WHS legal framework. A large part of the increased attention has been attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. However even before this, it was clear that mental health was an increasing focus for regulators. Safe Work Australia released national guidance on psychological safety in 2018 and sexual harassment as a WHS issue in 2021.

This latest guide followed some concerning findings in the 2020 Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report that the WHS laws needed to respond to sexual harassment issues. In Marie Boland’s review of the model WHS laws in December 2018, she observed that there was a perceived lack of clarity in how to manage psychological health as a WHS issue. She called for the model WHS Regulations to be amended to specifically address psychological risks.

Safe Work Australia is considering whether this is necessary and is also reviewing the incident notification obligations in the context of mental health. The scope of any amendments to the model laws are now with WHS Ministers. Since the Boland report, State regulators have also been preparing draft guidance on mental health including the NSW Code of Practice and a similar document in Queensland. ISO 45003 – Guidelines for Managing Psychosocial Risks is also under development and is the first global standard to provide guidance on this issue.