Mental Health as a WHS Risk: 5 key steps to best practice

26 May 2022

Mental Health as a WHS Risk: 5 key steps to best practice

While it has always been part of the model WHS laws, mental health as a WHS risk is a key issue for WHS professionals and organisations. It covers a range of matters including bullying, fatigue, stress, violence, the impact of sexual harassment and mental health risks resulting from the structure of work.

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. Since then, and particularly in the last 18 months in part due to COVID-19, the prevalence of and regulatory attention on mental health has significantly increased.

The Boland review and the 2020 Respect at Work report lead to national legislative changes and the incident notification obligations in the context of mental health is under review. The scope of any amendments to the model laws are now with WHS Ministers. National and State regulators have released guidance material on both psychosocial safety and sexual harassment as a safety issue. In addition, ISO 45003 – Guidelines for Managing Psychosocial Risks was published clearly setting the standard for what is expected from employers.

Mental health at work, which has historically been managed by HR, is now becoming a key area of focus for WHS professionals. Increasingly, regulators are asking for information in relation to grievance type issues and exit survey results. The reality is that mental health issues are complex to manage and it requires a systematic overhaul of current practices as there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. This session will identify the top 5 issues that organisations need to know about the evolving mental health WHS legal framework, to remove some of the practical barriers in managing these issues and achieving legal compliance.