Example 1: Work health and safety for flexible workers
The Policy Problem:
In recent years, technological advances have enabled working remotely to become more commonplace. However, in 2020 when work-from-home arrangements were implemented broadly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of workers engaged in flexible working arrangements rapidly increased in Australia. This shift towards flexible working highlighted the need for employers to ensure that they are meeting their obligation to provide a psychosocially safe working environment inclusive of flexible workers.
The Centre for Work Health and Safety (NSW Government) commissioned a research collaboration to investigate how employers can identify psychosocial risks faced by employees when working from home, and the strategies that can be used to prevent psychosocial harm for flexible workers.
The research collaboration concluded that effective work health and safety systems should comprise resources and tools tailored to meet the needs of flexible workers. To support businesses in this endeavour, a Best Practice Guide for flexible and work-from-home arrangements was developed.
Bentley, T., Farr-Wharton, B.,Onnis, L., Brunetto, Y., Caponecchia, C., Cattani, M., Vassiley, A., Nguyen, H., & Neta,A. (2021). Flexible work and psychological safety - Best practice to advance psychologically safe solutions from alternate locations: A report on findings from focus groups with NSW flexible employees, senior managers, WHS Practitioners and regulators (Phase 3). Centre for Centre for Work Health & Safety, NSW.
Example 2: Work design for an ageing demographic
The Policy Problem:
The ageing demographic of workforces brings work health and safety challenges for employers. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported that in 2014-15, 30% of Australians had work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs), with the prevalence increasing with age. For older workers, psychological injury exacerbated by WMSDs may lead to loss of employment and early retirement, which increases the risk of functional decline and social isolation. With the Work Health and Safety Roadmap for NSW 2022 setting a target for a 50% decline in the incidence rate of claims for musculoskeletal injuries and serious mental health conditions, the impetus for research focusing on the design of work to prevent WMSDs and psychological injuries for older workers was established.
As part of The Ageing demographic of the Australian workforce: prevention of work health and safety harm policy area, the Centre for Work Health and Safety (NSW Government) commissioned research to provide greater understanding of how to prevent psychological and physical harm among older workers enabling continued participation in the workforce.
An organisational work design resource specifically for older workers was developed – The Healthy Old Worker Toolkit. Then, the Healthy Old Worker Toolkit was piloted and evaluated with five organisations from a range of industries, with a final report prepared for the Centre for Work Health and Safety. The Healthy Older Worker Toolkit developed to guide organisations in designing healthy, safe and sustainable workplaces for older workers is available from the Centre for Work Health and Safety: https://www.centreforwhs.nsw.gov.au/tools/healthy-older-worker-toolkit
Bentley, T., Onnis, L., Vassiley, A., Andrew, C. Farr-Warton, B., Caponecchia, C., O’Neill, S., & Neta,A., (2022) Participatory organisational intervention design: Developing the Healthy Older Worker (HOW) Toolkit. Final Report.Centre for Work Health & Safety, NSW.