The New South Wales Government has introduced Australia’s first Code of Practice (Code) for managing psychosocial hazards in the workplace.

The Code provides employers with practical guidance about how to protect workers from psychosocial hazards in the workplace and comply with their work health and safety obligations in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) (the Act) and the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017 (NSW) (the Regulations).


How does it affect you?

  • Employers’ work health and safety duties extend to ensuring, so far as reasonably practicable, the psychological health of their workers.
  • Psychosocial hazards are elements in the design or management of work that increase the risk of work-related stress and result in psychological or physical harm. Common examples include role overload, low job control, exposure to conflict or aggression (from colleagues or customers), and poor supervisor or co-worker support.
  • Employers should continuously review their workplace health and safety systems to ensure they adequately identify and assess potential psychosocial hazards, implement controls to minimise risks to workers’ psychological health, and monitor the effectiveness of those controls. The review should be specific to the workplace.
  • The Code outlines how employers can identify and assess psychosocial risks and provides guidance to assist employers to determine what is reasonably practicable to eliminate or minimise those risks.
  • While the Code is not legally enforceable, it is approved under the Act and courts may use it as evidence of what is known about psychosocial risks and the steps that would be ‘reasonably practicable’ for employers to take to meet their legislative work health and safety obligations.

The Good News about Psychological Safety

  • Psychological safety is about creating an environment where people feel safe enough in a team environment that they feel like they can participate, contribute, learn, ask for help, show initiative and problem solve without the fear of being penalised or punished in some way.  So when this is achieved the team maximises their performance and our employees, leaders and customers all win.
  • The good news for organisational leaders and managers is that it’s worth it.
  • Measuring and monitoring and providing focus on driving the psychological safety of teams will mitigate risk  – organisational and personal and reputational
  • Psychological Safety will also drive higher team performance – innovation, customer advocacy, employee engagement, reduced WHS claims.

Some myths about Psychological Safety

Don’t be fooled there are a lot of misconceptions about psychological safety

  1. It is about being nice and friendly – no it’s about creating an environment of safety so people feel like they can contribute. But it is also about creating accountability.
  2. Psychological safety is just another measure of engagement – psychological safety is a lead indicator of engagement but the questions we ask in engagement surveys will not give the insights you need to create an environment of psychological safety.
  3. We measure culture so we don’t need to measure psychological safety – culture is a lag indicator of psychological safety so by the time you have a toxic culture you have a lot of work to do. 
  4. Its another buzz word – thankfully the commitment from state government is putting psychological safety front and centre. The high cost to the economy in terms of mental health, workplace claims, absenteeism is significant. The regulatory commitment moving forward with penalties and actions taken will ensure that psychological safety does not become a buzz word.
  5. Its a measure like any other engagement or culture survey – thankfully it is different as many employees are fed up with the lack of responses from engagement and culture surveys. psychological safety needs to be assessing the team psychological safety to understand the dynamics of team and manager. It should also be conducted at every level of the organisation  including boards and executive leadership teams. As is often the case many decisions from the top are driven within toxic board cultures and have an impact on the rest of the organisation.

Next steps

  1. Start measuring psychological safety
  2. Create plans around small timeframes concentrating on a few initiatives with the greatest impact
  3. Monitor on an ongoing basis to measure where some of the biggest challenges are ie team meetings
  4. Focus on giving people personal and team skills to management issues 
  5. Ensure you are investing interventions in the right place – what initiatives will have the greatest impact.


Be brave, stay safe, smile. x