Canberra's work safety commissioner has called for a framework to tackle the mental health impacts of workplace risks, and says changes need to be made to how the ACT looks at workplace deaths.
When work health and safety commissioner Jacqueline Agius took on the role 12 months ago, one of the first things on her agenda was to tackle "psychosocial hazards" at the workplace and broaden the definition of a risk at work.
"There are a lot of hazards that we don't tend to think of, and [they] can be fatigue, workload, workplace stress, occupational violence and of course harassment and gender-based violence," she said.
As part of a restructure under her leadership, a team dedicated to regulating these hazards was created.
Those issues were most prevalent in service industries, Ms Agius said, but were a problem across all sectors.
"If we have a young worker at a construction site where there are no safety standards in place, they might be fearful," she said.
"Attending that workplace, and [having] that fear every day, day in, day out, may cause a psychological injury, because it could result in trauma."
Ms Agius wants the ACT to adopt a code of practice to set out a clear pathway to address psychosocial risks in the workplace. NSW has already drafted one, and Queensland is making moves towards doing so.
"I think nationally, that is where we are headed," Ms Agius said.
The way work-related deaths are recorded and investigated also needed to be rethought, Ms Agius said.
Suicide is not currently counted as a workplace fatality, but Ms Agius said just because it didn't happen onsite, didn't mean it couldn't be related to employment.
"When we look at counting fatalities in workplaces, we don't count suicides because often they don't occur in a workplace," she said.
"They may occur because of the nature of a psychological injury, they may occur some time after the exposure to the risk.
"We need to look at how we can better capture suicides as workplace fatalities when there is a link to an injury in a workplace."
How that would work should be left to the experts, she said, although it could include an investigation into individual cases.
When it comes to preventing physical or social risks at the workplace, Ms Agius said changing culture is the hardest part.
"The first part of changing culture is speaking about it, and telling stories, because it's when we tell stories and when we speak about it that we understand the human element," she said.
Ms Agius said WorkSafe ACT was among the places people could turn if they experienced harrassment or assault at their place of employment. Her team could work with the police for criminal matters and run a joint operation.
"So WorkSafe would be looking into what systems of work are in place, whether or not staff are trained, whether there are policies and procedures and practices in place to keep workers safe from the risk of sexual harassment or sexual abuse," she said.