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2 May, 2023

Psychosocial Hazards

Blog | Industry News

Organisations have a proactive duty to effectively manage the risk associated with psychosocial hazards. Enhancing education and awareness of unsafe behaviours is a vital step towards building an inclusive workplace environment.

EMA Consulting can assist with various aspects of this, including in the provision of education/training for both managers and employees. One helpful and cost-effective method to bolster education and awareness of unsafe behaviours is our self-paced Bullying and Harassment Awareness training program.




When asked to identify workplace hazards leaders typically focus on physical, object, and substance-related hazards. Generally, organisations and their leaders are aware of their WHS obligations to effectively control risk stemming from these hazards. However, the same level of understanding may not exist when it comes to controlling risk from psychological hazards that can lead to psychological and/or physical harm. This category of hazards is referred to as ‘psychosocial hazards’.

What are Psychosocial Hazards?

Psychosocial hazards include factors in the design or management of work that increase the risk of work-related stress and can lead to psychological or physical harm. Risks to psychological health from psychosocial hazards must be managed just like any other health and safety risk in the workplace (which is described further below). Examples of psychosocial hazards include poor support from supervisors or co-workers, poor organisational justice, and poor workplace relationships which often stems from unsafe behaviour (eg, unreasonable behaviour, sexual harassment, racial harassment, and workplace bullying).

Impact of Unsafe Behaviour

Unsafe behaviour can lead to a low performing workplace. Typically, underperforming, or destructive workplace culture is created by default, whereas high performance workplace culture is created by design. The culture of any organisation is shaped by the behaviours that leaders display and model and also those that leaders are prepared to tolerate, ignore, or accept. Therefore, the key questions to consider by an organisation are:

  • What behaviours are tolerated or ignored?

  • What behaviours create risk to health or safety?

  • What are our legal obligations in respect of behavioural risks at work?

  • Are we complying with our legal obligations?

  • If unacceptable behaviour occurs, when and how should team members and leaders intervene?

WHS Duties

Organisations (and officers of organisations) have a duty under WHS law to provide and maintain a work environment that is, as far as reasonably practicable, without risk to health and safety. This means organisations have a proactive duty to identify and effectively manage risk stemming from hazards that cause harm. Where, for example, risk arises from poor workplace relationships (eg, unsafe behaviour), the organisation has a duty to eliminate the risk. If elimination is not reasonably practicable, the organisation has a duty to reduce the risk associated with unsafe behaviour so far as is reasonably practicable. To provide clarity surrounding these obligations, on 1 August 2022 Safe Work Australia released the Model Code of Practice: Managing Psychosocial hazards at work.

A Positive Duty to prevent Sexual Harassment

The Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Act 2022(Cth), introduced into the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) a positive duty to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate, as far as possible, certain discriminatory conduct. This discriminatory conduct includes sexual harassment (as well as other types of discriminatory conduct). These legislative changes further clarify the obligation to prevent sexual harassment within Australian workplaces.

What Should Employers be Doing?

Employers (and other persons conducting a business or undertaking) should look to what steps they can take to systematically build and maintain a safe, inclusive, and respectful workplace. Steps could include (without limitation) reviewing organisational culture, providing education to managers and staff, and promptly investigating and managing any issues of unsafe behaviour that arise.

Workplace culture improvement strategies must deliver both a sustainable approach towards raising and maintaining awareness of unsafe behaviours and a means to build an inclusive environment through leadership and team development.

Raising awareness of unsafe behaviours is an important first step towards effectively controlling the related risks. Removing these risks has a significant benefit to organisational culture, including a sense of inclusion. It is important for leaders to understand that even ‘low level’ negative behaviours, such as incivility, are a potential barrier to building a positive workplace culture. In other words, inclusion cannot be achieved where entry or low-level negative behaviours are ignored, tolerated, or accepted by managers and leaders.

The Government’s Respect@Work website is a fantastic resource for employers and individuals in understanding their obligations around creating a safe and inclusive workplace.

How can EMA Consulting Help?

EMA Consulting offers a range of services to assist in both building a positive workplace culture as well as investigating any issues of poor behaviour that arise.

Our Bullying and Harassment Awareness training program provides the necessary information for learners to easily identify various categories of unsafe behaviours, the seriousness of these behaviours, their respective obligations, and the consequences of non-compliance. Based on our years of providing face to face training to managers and employees, wee have been busy building content within our own cloud-based Learning Management System, BuzzWiser so that, in addition to face-to-face and online methods of delivery, our Bullying and Harassment Awareness training program can now be accessed via self-paced learning.


Within BuzzWiser all courses are created using microlearning principles. This mode of training delivery is highly flexible, cost and time effective.

Each learner has ongoing access to all training materials including video content and downloadable materials for the duration of the subscription period. This allows learners to jump back into training programs to refresh knowledge at any time – at the initiative of either the learner or employer.

Organisations have access to reporting functions, course assignment and can assign relevant modules or the full course at any time to any learner (subject to the number of learners covered within their subscription). Additionally, EMA has built this system to have the same strict data management principles as our flagship product, MyEms.

BuzzWiser’s Bullying and Harassment Awareness training program can be accessed through a subscription service of between 1 and 3 years. The average cost per learner decreases as the number of learners increases. The cost per user (exclusive of GST) ranges from $39 (for less than 10 employees) to $3.04 (over 10,000 employees), with additional discounts for not-for-profit organisations.

Require further information/assistance?

This EMA Note is not comprehensive advice about your situation and does not cover all your obligations. If you require further information or advice, please contact your Consultant.



EMA Consulting is not a law firm and therefore does not provide legal advice or services. The information contained within this document and associated material is general in nature and should not be relied upon. If you require specific advice on a particular matter, we recommend that you contact EMA Consulting on 08 8203 1700. Subject to the matter at hand, your EMAC Consultant may recommend that you obtain formal legal advice. If formal legal advice is required, upon your written instruction EMAC will brief your matter to a legal practitioner for this purpose. The contents of this document and associated materials do not represent legal advice.


For more information or specific advice, please do not hesitate to contact one of our employee relations consultants.

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