Australian work health and safety policy for the regulation of psychosocial risks: perspectives from key informants

Rachael E. Potter, Valerie Jean O’Keeffe, Stavroula Leka, Maureen F. Dollard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The regulation of psychosocial hazards and risks, for the protection of psychological health, is a highly debated issue within work health and safety (WHS). Increasing work-related psychological illness and injury, alongside growing academic evidence and community awareness, has fuelled the need to better prevent and regulate psychosocial hazards and risks. Research must clarify challenges and improvements to policy and practice from stakeholder perspectives. We conduct a qualitative interview-based investigation with 25 informed participants on the effectiveness of Australian WHS policies for psychosocial risk regulation. Participants are active in diverse roles including policy development, program implementation, industry advice, and psychosocial risk inspection. Inductive analysis revealed divergent viewpoints that are categorized into three broad themes: (1) scant specificity in the current regulatory WHS policy framework, (2) compliance complexities and (3) the role of regulators in action. Tension points also emerged between these themes and subthemes, including: (a) how psychosocial risks should be addressed in legislation, (b) how to establish compliance, and (c) the role of the regulator in evaluating compliance, and facilitating education and better practice. Future research must continue to disseminate knowledge from WHS informants to guide better practice. Also, researchers should investigate organizational barriers that hinder WHS psychosocial risk regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-132
Number of pages21
JournalPolicy and Practice in Health and Safety
Issue number2
Early online date2019
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2019


  • psychological health
  • psychosocial hazards
  • psychosocial risks
  • Regulation
  • work health and safety


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