Key messages for employers, employees and OSH personnel

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There are many stakeholders that play a part in ensuring that work-related stress is prevented and managed effectively in the workplace, particularly employers, employees and OSH Personnel.


Key messages for employers

It is important for employers to encourage a culture of reporting of incidents and hazards in the workplace. This enables the employers to conduct a more accurate risk assessment of the potential hazards and practicable risk controls. To address under-reporting and encourage future reporting of psychological risk factors, employers may consider developing and implementing a Statement of Intent which states management’s commitment to addressing risk factors for work-related stress and encourages reporting of such risk factors, incidents or injuries. Conducting an anonymous employee survey which asks specific questions about the presence of the psychological risk factors and employees’ current health effects may also assist your workplace in obtaining an accurate assessment on whether employees are likely to be exposed to the psychological risk factors for work-related stress.

Effective work-related stress prevention is best achieved through the following key elements:

  • Commitment by senior management, e.g. a policy and/or letter of commitment from senior management to prevent work-related stress sends a powerful message to employees that their health and safety is a priority.
  • Communication to raise awareness and understanding of work-related stress prevention, build trust and participation, clarify expectations and desired outcomes, and provide feedback about progress over time.
  • Integration into workplace OSH representation, consultative and issue resolution processes and systems.
  • Systematically identifying ‘at risk’ workgroups across an organisation where work-related risks factors that are likely or do cause harm to employee health are evident. 
  • Apply an OSH risk prevention approach with workgroup consultation to determine ways of eliminating or reducing the risk factors.
  • Arrangements to guide and support work-related stress prevention strategies where required and initiate them across an organisation, such as:
    • A steering group to plan and support the involvement of employees (including managers/supervisors), secure resources and ensure that actions to control identified psychological risks factors are implemented and supported at all levels in the organisation
    • Local representative committee to ensure actions to control identified work-related risks factors are implemented at the local level, compile reports of agreed actions from workgroups and determine the means of implementing actions to control risks that are beyond a local workgroup’s authority.
  • Resource allocation and support to:
    • Regularly gather and examine information from sources such as workplace surveys to determine actions to address key psychological risks factors across the organisation
    • Routinely examine workplace data to help determine workgroups where work-related stress has the potential to cause harm (such as high levels of sick leave) or where harm has occurred and risk is confirmed, such as a stress-related claim for injury or illness
    • Provide managers/supervisors with the knowledge and skills in using the OHS work-related stress risk prevention workgroup consultative approach described in this guide (or other equally effective approach) to identify and psychological risks factors in their workplaces and meet compliance with OHS law
    • Ensure support of workgroups in the provision of trained facilitators e.g. human resource departments or external to the workgroup
    • Support ‘at risk’ workgroups to determine actions to address the underlying sources of work-related stress in their area
    • Facilitate ‘at risk’ workgroups where interpersonal conflict or bullying is identified as a source of work-related stress
  • Implement work-related stress prevention strategies and monitor them via existing OHS systems within the organisation.

Key messages for employees

Section 20 of the OSH Act states employees have a responsibility to ensure they take reasonable care of their own health and safety, and not adversely affect the health and safety of others in the workplace through any act or omission at work. This includes:

  • The employee, as reasonably able to, complying with instructions from the employer for the safety and health of the employee and for the safety and health of other persons.  For example, employees following their workplace Code of Conduct which outlines acceptable workplace behaviours.  
  • Using personal protective equipment and clothing which has been provided by the employer and the employee has been properly instructed how to use it. For example, wearing a personal duress alarm provided by the employer, in which the employee has received instruction on its use and operation. 
  • Reporting any situation in the workplace that the employee has reason to believe could constitute a hazard to any person that the employee cannot correct. For example, reporting any psychological risk factors in which the employee feels may constitute a hazard as they believe they are experiencing adverse psychological and / or physical health effects. 
  • Reporting any injury which he or she is aware of, or in connection with his or her work. For example, a spare parts interpreter reporting a psychological injury of depression as a result of sustained and excessive work pressure. 

Key messages for OSH personnel 

OSH professionals and safety and health representatives play a key role in preventing and managing work-related stress. It is important for OSH professionals, safety and health representatives and employers to work together to prevent and manage work-related stress. OSH professionals and safety and health representatives may assist the employer through conducting regular workplace ‘walk-arounds’ and assisting with the OSH incident investigations. OSH professionals and safety and health representatives can recommend to the employer the establishment, maintenance, and monitoring of programmes, measures and procedures at the workplace. For example a recommendation may include conducting an anonymous survey to obtain information on the psychological risk factors employees may be exposed to in the workplace and whether employee health is being negatively affected. 

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