Psychological Safety, Hazards and Health - terms you need to know


There is a lot of confusion around terminology and the use of psycho derivatives in the past couple of years. With new WHS Laws, codes of practice, mental health and busienss performance – here are some tems that you need to understand.  


The Commonwealth has amended work health and safety laws to adopt recent amendments to the model Work Health and Safety Regulations including regulations on managing psychosocial risks and hazards at work.

The psychosocial regulations will come into effect in the Commonwealth/Comcare jurisdiction on 1 April 2023.

The regulations will give more specific detail to employers about how to meet work health and safety duties for psychosocial hazards. The changes define important terms including ‘psychosocial hazard’ and ‘psychosocial risk’ and identify the matters employers should consider when managing psychosocial risks.

Duty holders will need to use the hierarchy of controls to manage psychosocial hazards, detailed in part 3.1 of Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011. This is a step-by-step approach to eliminating or reducing risks, ranking controls from the highest to the lowest level of protection.

Terminology Check

The correct language is integral to increasing our understanding and building capability in psychosocial risk management, driving organisational culture and importantly knowing our WHS obligations.

So what are the correct definitions? Here are some general examples:

Psychosocial Hazards: factors in the design or management of work that increase the risk of work-related stress and can lead to psychological or physical harm (injury/illness). It can also include intersections of individual factors. It is a WHS requirement for PCBU’s to manage per the WHS Act and risk management model.










Psychological Safety: is the belief that you will not be punished if you or humilated if you speak up with ideas, ask questions, or challenge the status quo. It is based on a level of interpersonal trust and respect and permission to fully participate within a team. 

A growing body of conceptual and empirical work has focused on understanding the nature of psychological safety, identifying factors that contribute to it, and examining its implications for individuals, teams, and organisations.






Edgar Schein and Warren Bennis (1930s) , Willaim Kahn (1990s) , and more recently Google and Amy Edmonson have looked at the impact of psychological safety on learning environments, work environments, innovation, productivity and engagement. 

Psychological safety is being pursued by organisations who wish to improve performance, mitigate risks, improve learning and upskilling, pursue innovation or in transition.





Mental health is more than the absence of a mental illness, it’s a continuum, it’s a range of well to unwell in which we can move upon depending on several factors. WHO’s definition is: “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

Biopsychosocial: this model emphasises the interconnection between biological, psychological and socio-environmental factors that can impact our mental health.

Psychological Health and Safety: Promote and support workers psychological well-being and actively prevent harm. Managing psychosocial hazards for the prevention of psychological and physical harm.



(Research Gate, 2018)



In the context of prevention, it is essential that:

    1. There is a shared understanding about organisational psychosocial factors and their impact on employee WHS outcomes.  
    2. Workplaces consider the promotion and utilisation of lead indicators as an evidence-based approach to support WHS prevention and risk management activities. 
    3. Workplaces consider how lead indicators may be incorporated into WHS systems, risk management frameworks and organisational performance metrics. 

Next Steps

    1. Gain leadership support and have them build a program to “walk the talk”
    2. Educate and train staff on new regulations
    3. Identify gaps in processes and procedures and update immediately
    4. Communication any changes in processes and procedures
    5. Understand your cultural gaps in terms of WHS safety – psychological safety is just as imporantant as physical safety.
    6. Conduct a people and culture audit to identify any gaps. Using a third party, providing an indepenent and trusted view is essential to understanding the gaps in your organsation.  

Book a consultation with us now to gain a People + Science approach to your “people” risk management.


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