Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

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

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


Rachael Potter

Valerie O'Keeffe

Stavroula Leka

Maureen Dollard

Mardi Webber


Psychosocial hazards and risks are widely acknowledged to be a serious challenge in WHS. WHS regulatory (hard law) and non-regulatory binding (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. Moreover, non-regulatory policies showed sound coverage of exposure factors and preventive actions and, to a slightly lesser degree, risk assessment. 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 outcomes. 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.


Potter, R., O'Keeffe, V., Leka, S., Dollard, M., & Webber, M. (2019). Analytical review of the Australian policy context for work-related psychological health and psychosocial risks. Safety Science, 111, 37-48. doi:10.1016/j.ssci.2018.09.012

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 24, 2018
Online Publication Date Sep 27, 2018
Publication Date Jan 1, 2019
Deposit Date Sep 26, 2018
Publicly Available Date Mar 28, 2020
Print ISSN 0925-7535
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 111
Pages 37-48
Public URL


Downloadable Citations