Ensuring a healthy and safe workplace has always been an important part of a manager’s work. On 1st April 2023 the Queensland Government introduced the first legally enforceable code of practice aimed at addressing psychosocial hazards in the workplace. The code now defines an employer’s obligations more fully by giving structure to issues of psychosocial health and safety in the same way it had defined physical safety in the workplace. While the idea of managing psychosocial risk at work isn’t new, the recent changes require a much sharper focus from organisations who want to avoid litigation, attract and retain talent and create a constructive culture amongst their workforce.

What are psychosocial hazards?

Psychosocial hazards are anything that can cause psychological harm (e.g. harm someone’s mental health) in the workplace. They stem from:

  • The way the tasks or job are designed, organised, managed and supervised
  • Tasks or jobs where there are inherent psychosocial hazards and risks
  • The equipment, working environment or requirements to undertake duties in physically hazardous environments
  • Social factors at work, workplace relationships and social interactions

Who does the code of practice apply to?

The Code applies to any persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) in Queensland. Organisations and their managers already have a primary duty of care to provide and maintain a work environment without risks under the Workplace Health & Safety (WHS) Act.

What are some examples of psychosocial hazards?

The below table includes some examples of psychosocial hazards identified in the code and examples of risk factors that employers should consider. This list is not exhaustive and there are many other psychosocial hazards that an employer will need to review. There is also a greater risk of work-related stress when psychosocial hazards combine and act together, so employers should also be careful not to consider hazards in isolation.

Hazard Examples
Work demands Tasks or jobs that involve:

  • fast work pace and time pressure
  • excessive or insufficient workload
  • repetitive or monotonous tasks
  • sustained concentration
  • high mental workload
  • frequent or high emotional labour
  • extended work hours or roster length
  • a large number of consecutive days worked
  • shift rotation
  • exposure to emotionally distressing situations (e.g. first responders)
Low levels of control Tasks or jobs where:

  • work is machine or computer paced
  • work is tightly prescribed or scripted
  • workers have little say in the way they do their work, when they can take breaks or change tasks
  • workers are not involved in decision making about work that affects them or their clients
Working in isolation Tasks or job where there are:

  • limited opportunities for problem sharing and feedback
  • a perception of increased responsibility for decision making
  • limited opportunities for socialisation
  • barriers to communication
  • blurring of boundaries between work and home life
Poor support Tasks or jobs where workers have insufficient or inappropriate:

  • support from leadership, supervisors or co-workers
  • information or training to support performance
  • equipment or resources to do the job
Workplace culture Workplaces where there is:

  • a leadership practice that tolerates or permits inappropriate or unreasonable workplace behaviours
  • leadership that does not respect diversity in the workplace such as ethnicity or sexuality
  • limited or no management accountability in managing psychosocial hazards and risks
  • a mismatch of leadership style to the nature of the work


What do organisations need to do?

To meet your obligations as a PCBU (the organisation) in managing psychosocial hazards in the workplace, you must eliminate or minimise the risk as far as is reasonably practicable. You should use a four-step risk process to meet your health and safety obligations under the Code and regulations (similar to the existing obligations). These four steps include:

Step Examples
Identify psychosocial hazards Review internal data such as complaint reports, absenteeism and turnover rates

Gather feedback through conversations, observations, group discussions, anonymous forms and surveys

Audit existing policies and processes related to mental health including policies and procedures, management practices, training programs and job descriptions

Assess the risks Review organisational structure (e.g. lines of reporting, supervisory responsibilities)

Assess specific job requirements within the organisation

Assess the design and use of the physical workplace (e.g. break out areas)

Observe how work tasks are completed

Control the risks Provide leadership and management training

Update and communicate policies and processes related to mental health

Monitor and review the effectiveness of the controls and adapt or improve the controls where necessary Create a schedule for maintaining, monitoring and reviewing controls to ensure they are effective

Undertake regular scheduled discussions at management and WHS meetings

Conduct employee surveys


What are some of the consequences of psychosocial hazards for an organisation?

When psychosocial hazards are not effectively managed, they can negatively impact on an organisation in many ways. Some of the consequences to an organisation include:

  • Poor overall business performance
  • Increased absenteeism and presenteeism (workers turning up for work when sick and unable to function effectively)
  • Increased conflict and relationship-related friction
  • Mistakes, work-related accidents and higher injury rates
  • Reputational risk
  • Poor employee retention and associated costs
  • Litigation cases or claims (there have been recent prosecutions of companies and their directors around workplace bullying and sexual harassment at work)


With improved clarity around obligations and expectations for psychosocial safety, now is the time for Queensland organisations to address these specific risks and become compliant. Addressing psychosocial hazards in the workplace requires an investment of time, energy and resources, however your return on investment will be well worth the effort. Increased employee health and wellbeing will impact everything from retention to innovation. The good news is, if you have a constructive culture supported by productive systems and processes you will almost certainly be doing what you need to do to cover your obligations under the code.

Find out more

If you are interested in learning more about where your organisation stands in relation to psychosocial hazards and the Qld code of conduct, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our experts, Phillip Bartlett or Andrew Moore. Using methodologies based on Systems Leadership, we have worked with a range of organisations and industries to develop and implement psychosocial risk strategies and leadership and cultural training in the workplace.

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