New WHS codes offer guidance on mental wellbeing

An increasing awareness that mental health is as important as physical health has provided new opportunities for WA employers to consider how they can manage their Work Health and Safety (WHS) responsibilities.

The State Government has released three updated codes of practice today, February 15, that provide guidance on how you can manage workplace behaviour, violence and aggression at work, and psychosocial hazards in the workplace from a WHS perspective.

  • The workplace behaviour code is primarily concerned with inappropriate or unreasonable behaviours by any worker within an organisation.
  • The violence and aggression code is mainly focused on managing violence and aggression from external parties such as customers, clients, patients and students.
  • The psychosocial hazards code provides practical guidance for workplaces where people may be exposed to psychosocial hazards such as stress, fatigue and burnout, as well as bullying, harassment, violence and aggression, discrimination and misconduct.

Each code provides guidance on how to manage the risks associated with each of the three issues, so you should be prepared to modify the guidance to the unique demands of your own workplace.

For general employee advice and guidance, contact CCIWA’s Employee Relations Advice Centre on (08) 9365 7660 or email [email protected].

Wellbeing covers both physical and mental health

To date, WA’s WHS system has mainly focused on managing physical risk harm to workers, but these new codes focus on protecting employees’ mental wellbeing.

Speaking at the official launch of the codes today, CCIWA Workplace Relations Director Ryan Martin said employment itself was generally beneficial in helping to maintain and improve an individual’s mental health.

“The dignity of a job is a fundamental foundation for so many Western Australians,” Martin said.

“A job so often provides a sense of individual accomplishment, a sense of contribution, which is good for mental health, so it’s important to ensure that whilst at work, people are safe, physically and psychologically.”

These codes are intended to help employers develop practical strategies to prevent and manage mental health risks in the workplace.

This includes risks that could arise from the way work is performed, the nature of the job, the work environment, and the way people behave.

“The WA business community are already focused on making workplaces healthier and safer, and they’re ever more alert to promoting good mental health,” Martin added.

“These codes provide another practical tool for businesses in WA to help achieve this.”

No business is immune

The codes address the issue that inappropriate behaviour at the workforce is a key issue across all industries.

“The violence and aggression code is designed to help businesses manage the risk associated with clients and members of the public who are threatening workers — with many businesses having to enforce mask and vaccination mandates, this information is especially topical with recent reports of staff being assaulted in complying with these requirements,” Martin said.

The behaviour of staff towards their colleagues has also been under the spotlight.

“Most businesses already have policies focused on preventing workplace bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination. The new workplace behaviour code of practice reinforces the need to address these issues from both a safety and an HR perspective to actively prevent and address bullying and harassment,” Martin said.

“The new workplace behaviour also addresses the risk associated with serious one-off incidents of inappropriate behaviour and the need to address workplace conflict before it escalates.”

It’s expected the new codes will mean many organisations will need to refine their bullying, harassment and discrimination policies to reflect the broader range of behaviours covered by the code.

The codes are online at the WA Department of Commerce website.

CCIWA provides training and coaching support for leaders, managers, and supervisors dealing with supporting mental health in the workplace, and advice on policies and practices that help to enable a more supportive working environment. Call (08) 9365 7496 or email [email protected].

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