Analytical review of the Australian policy context for work-related psychological health and psychosocial risks

Rachael Potter, Valerie O'Keeffe, Stavroula Leka, Mardi Webber, Maureen Dollard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Psychosocial hazards and risks are widely acknowledged to be a serious challenge in work health and safety (WHS). WHS regulatory (hard law) and non-regulatory (soft law) policies should strive to engage organisations in psychosocial risk management practices and set a standard for good psychological health in the workplace. Therefore, policies should contain key definitions and aspects of good-practice psychosocial risk management principles. However, at present there has been limited review on policy in this area, despite growing evidence of poor work-related psychological health. Using qualitative methods, the current paper reviews relevant regulatory and non-regulatory policy documents and conducts a gap analysis according to criteria identified in models of good psychosocial risk management practice. The paper extends upon European research by Leka et al. (2015) and examines 39 policies (6 regulatory and 33 non-regulatory) in Australia. We found that most policy documents included psychological health in the objective of the policy. Non-regulatory policies showed sound coverage of exposure factors and preventive actions and, to a slightly lesser degree, risk assessment. Moreover, non-regulatory policy documents scored higher than regulatory policies. Within regulatory policies, there is poor inclusion of risk assessment, preventive action and poor coverage of exposure factors and psychological health outcomes. All policies could be strengthened by including greater coverage of work-related psychological health problems/disorders and associated aoutcomes. This is a novel review, which contributes to a broader program of research on Australian WHS policy. The next research phase seeks detailed information from WHS experts about the effectiveness and/or implementation of these policies in order to ascertain potential improvements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-48
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Policy
  • Psychosocial risk
  • Psychosocial risk management
  • Regulation
  • Work health and safety
  • Work-related psychological health


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