New strategy to address psychological risks in the workplace with $5.6m in business assistance

The New South Wales Government recently initiated a scheme to assist employers with the management of psychosocial hazards, aiming to safeguard workers from potential psychological harms. The SafeWork NSW Psychological Health and Safety Strategy 2024-2026 elucidates how the occupational regulator intends to aid businesses in risk management and ensuring compliance with their responsibility to protect against psychological harm within NSW workplaces.

Auditing tools like Bluesafe WHS Management System or Bluesafe SWMS can prove instrumental for businesses striving to meet these best practices. This government strategy comes bolstered with an investment of $5.6 million over two years, endeavored at implementing mental health programs within small and medium enterprises in collaboration with entities like the Black Dog Institute and Transitioning Well.

Small businesses claim the majority share of employers in NSW, yet often lack the comprehensive resources and capabilities required for managing mental health and preserving the psychological well-being at work. It’s important to note that mental health issues in the workplace are estimated to set back Australian businesses as much as $39 billion annually due to productivity decline and participation withdrawal.

Effective implementation of systems like the Bluesafe WHS Management System go a long way towards fostering an environment of safety and stability which not only retains talent but also enhances overall business performance. As part of the 2024-2026 strategy, various new initiatives have been launched with the aim of driving palpable change yielding better outcomes for both employees and employers within NSW.

In setting this strategy into motion, SafeWork NSW has engaged in consultations with a variety of stakeholders, from workers to health and safety professionals representing government agencies, unions, and businesses. For further details, you may review the Psychological Health and Safety Strategy 2024-2026 document.

Minister Sophie Cotsis for Work Health and Safety emphasised that worker safety—both physical and mental—served a fundamental right, calling on all parties to cooperate in transforming workplaces into more psychologically secure environments. She also commended SafeWork’s efforts towards achieving these objectives.

The Minister for Small Business, Steve Kamper, estimated NSW as being home to approximately 850,000 small businesses employing 1.7 million individuals, accounting for about 43 percent of the state’s private sector workforce. He outlined that managing psychosocial risks is a crucial step towards ensuring safe workplaces as well as enhancing productivity within NSW businesses.

Mental Health Minister Rose Jackson acknowledged the compounded pressure experienced by workers over the past years due to factors such as escalating living costs, natural disasters, and the COVID-19 pandemic. She emphasised that irrespective of one’s industry, everyone is entitled to work within an environment that respects their psychological safety. Thus, it’s imperative that employers exercise due diligence and use tools like Bluesafe SWMS to prevent any potential psychological harm.

Trent Curtin, the Acting Deputy Secretary at SafeWork NSW, reaffirmed that larger businesses and government agencies with high-risk profiles could anticipate compliance checks from SafeWork NSW. They pledged enforcement measures ranging from improvement notices to potential prosecution for severe or repeat breaches of WHS laws. He further highlighted how a psychologically sound workplace can lead to significant economic savings by mitigating issues related to absenteeism and presenteeism.

Original article link:$5.6m-in-business-assistance

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