8 July 2022 posted by Recovery Partners

Model WHS Laws Amendments: All About Psychosocial Hazards and Risks

There have been more changes to the Model WHS Laws, this time with a focus on psychosocial hazards.

When were these changes made?

On 6 June 2022, the national Model WHS Laws were amended to consider a wide range of matters.  

Why were these changes made?

The new changes are part of the recommendations from Marie Boland’s independent review of the laws in 2018.

Marie Boland is the former Executive Director of SafeWork SA and was appointed by Safe Work Australia to conduct the first independent review of the model Work Health and Safety laws.

Reviews are scheduled every five years from when the last of the seven conforming jurisdictions implemented the model WHS laws (South Australia and Tasmania implemented on 1 January 2013).

You can read the Boland Report here.

Ms Boland noted:

” …there is a widespread view that psychological health is neglected in the model WHS Regulations and Codes. Many PCBUs told me that they are uncertain about how to best address psychological health in the workplace, and the feedback from small businesses in particular was that they wanted more prescription and practical guidance to help them identify and manage psychosocial risks and hazards.”

What are the key changes in 2022?

Our friends at Workplace Law have summarised the changes below.

The amendments are as follows:

  • Providing a definition of psychosocial hazards and clarifying duties in relation to psychosocial risks in the model WHS Regulations;
  • Clarifying the definition of work group to provide that work groups are negotiated and agreed between the person conducting a business and undertaking (PCBU) and workers proposed to form the work group and their representatives;
  • Clarifying that a health and safety representative (HSR) has an entitlement to choose an approved HSR course of their choice;
  • Removing the requirement for a WHS permit holder to provide at least 24-hour notice of their proposed entry and suspected contravention. A WHS permit holder must now provide notice of their proposed entry and suspected contravention as soon as practicable after entering the workplace;
  • Aligning how certain notices were issued and served to be consistent with other sections of the model WHS Act;
  • Providing inspectors with the ability to require the production of documents and answer questions within 30 days of entry into a workplace;
  • Clarifying the power of the WHS regulator to obtain information of potential WHS law breaches in different jurisdictions;
  • Providing regulators with the power to share or disclose information across jurisdictions;
  • Amending the Category 1 Offence to be one of “gross negligence and reckless conduct” rather than recklessness alone;
  • Extending the time in which persons can request that the regulator commence a prosecution where it is believed that a Category 1 or Category 2 offence has been committed;
  • Requiring the WHS regulator to provide investigation updates every three months until the completion of the investigation;
  • Prohibiting persons from entering into, providing or taking the benefit of insurance contracts or other arrangements which provides indemnity from liability for a WHS monetary penalty or to cover the costs of a WHS fine or penalty;
  • Introducing new recordkeeping requirements for amusement devices and passenger ropeways in the model WHS Regulations; and
  • Providing clarity in the model WHS Regulations about when there is the obligation to comply with Standards

How will these amendments be adopted?

Adoption and implementation are up to each state and territory. Victoria follow their own OHS Act but will look to follow the recommendations in the Boland Report, particularly those about psychosocial risks.

What next?

With more information and clarity about psychosocial risks, PCBUs need to begin understanding how they will identify and address these in their risk management process.

How Recovery Partners can help

As the experts in safety, rehab and wellbeing, we provide a range of services to mitigate and minimise the occurrence of psychosocial hazards within your organisation.

Helpful resources

As part of our processes, Recovery Partners reviews and audits policies and procedures. Download our free Psychosocial Document Checklist today. Please note, this checklist is a guide only. 

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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/