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People at Work digital tool

Video transcript of the WHS Inspector Forum presentation – People at Work digital tool. Presented by Tanya Orszulak, Worksafe Queensland on 4 December 2020.


Next up, we’ve got Tanya Orszulak from WorkSafe Queensland and Tanya’s going to be talking to us about Australia’s only validated and evidence-based psychosocial risk assessment survey tool that includes benchmarking. It’s called People at Work and it’s due for official launch in February 2021. You’re among the select few who are getting the inside scoop and a look under the covers early. I can’t wait to find out more. Welcome, Tanya. The floor is yours.

Tanya Orszulak:

Thank you very much, Andrew. Can everyone hear me okay?


Yes, you’re loud and clear.

Tanya Orszulak:

Excellent. That was a really interesting presentation. Thank you so much, NT, that was fascinating. And thank you everyone for having me today and joining the session. As we’ve already heard, I’m going to be talking about People at Work, or PAW for short. My name is Tanya Orszulak and I’m from the Psychological Health Unit as part of WorkSafe or Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Office of Industrial Relations.

My background is actually as an inspector and investigator within the organisation but in this team, our role is basically specialist advisors who develop and implement initiatives to prevent psychological injury risks in Queensland workplaces and also, we support our inspectorate. As you’ve heard, this is hot off the press. People at Work, it’s a digital platform so we’re going to go over what this means and what are the benefits for us as regulators and inspectors and also, the benefits for duty holders in realising that this is available to help navigate the challenging hazard area of psychological health and safety.

We’ll look at things like understanding psychosocial hazards and factors, how to identify areas of concern, assess risks and implement controls to manage risks proactively in this space. We could go to the next slide, please.

This slide is nothing new for all of us who are in the regulatory sphere. As we know, the premise is we’re about preventing harm, so the Work Health and Safety Act requires a person conducting a business or undertaking or PCBU to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers. The Act defines health as both physical and psychological, therefore it’s our job to ensure compliance and it’s also PCBU’s duty to protect their workers from risks to psychological health as well as physical.

To do this, PCBU’s must consider things like work design, safe systems of work to eliminate or if elimination isn’t possible, minimise as far as reasonably practicable. What they can do is identify hazards, assess risks, implement risk controls, monitor the health and safety of their workers and work conditions and consult with workers.

While we all know this already and most duty holders do as well, do we all know what to look for when assessing compliance and how do we go when we’re asked by PCBU’s, “How do I do this?” or “What do I need to do?” or “Where do I start?” when you talk about psychological health at work? It's a difficult question and it’s quite complex but I guess what this tool and resource or website is going to show you, hopefully today, that this is going to really assist us with our roles as regulators as well as assist PCBU’s in knowing how to navigate how to manage these psychosocial hazards and risk factors.

If we just take a look at this next slide, I’ve got a short video clip to introduce you to this new People at Work digital platform.

[short video clip plays (music and slides only)]

Sorry about those technical hitches there. It always works perfectly until the day, but anyway, you get an idea of what People at Work is. Basically, the website is access for anyone so PCBU’s and regulators alike, anyone to access where they can utilise this survey tool. But as well as that, there’s a wealth of resources and learning modules and questions and also, contacts for the regulators around Australia and some information on what psychosocial hazards and risks are. And it’s all free and it’s available to access as of 30th November so only just a week ago.

Next slide, please. I’ll just give you a little background on People at Work or PAW. It’s been around for a while. It’s not new. What’s new is this digital platform and website. It began in 2007 as a research project between University of Queensland, Australian National University and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. Now, it’s reached a national collaboration between the health and safety regulators.

As you can see down the bottom, all the regulators that are involved in funding and collaborating on this digital project are below with all the – we’ve got ACT, New South Wales, Victoria, NT, Safe Work Australia, Comcare, SA and WA as well as WHSQ. The aim was to develop a validated psychosocial risk assessment tool and as we’ve already said, it’s the only one that is validated in Australia. Since its inception, People at Work has evolved from a 40-minute paper-based survey to a 10-15-minute online tool that automatically generates a custom report.

And the custom report that’s generated, that talks to you about the areas in which you’re going okay depending on the factors that are included in that report, it talks about things where you need some improvement and then, prioritises for the areas where you need to focus more urgently. As well as that, the report compares the results of your organisation to some data and benchmarks across similar organisations, so you’ll see how your organisation is performing against what the national benchmark is.

The next slide, we’re going to just have a look at what the home page looks like. When you go onto peopleatwork.gov.au, this is what the home page is. Up the top, you can see there are a number of headings there, Home, People at Work, Process, Learning Modules, Psychological Health and Safety, Resources, FAQ, etc. You can click on any of those and you have drop down where you can choose, and you have free access to any of that information. As well as that, highlighted in the main part of the site page, you can see those tiles which you can click on as well to access that information.

If you are an organisation where there are 20 or more workers, you can access the People at Work survey tool. If you are less or smaller than 20 workers, the survey tool is not designed for the smaller workplaces however, you can still access all of the resources and information on this site for free. And I’ll just explain that the reason why 20 workers is that magic number is simply because the survey responses are anonymous. What that means is confidential so if you’ve got a workplace of less than 20 workers, it may not be enough of a data source or enough respondents to keep those responses anonymous.

If your workers are doing this survey, they can be rest assured that they can be honest about how they’re feeling and what the issues are so you will get a true representation of what’s going on in your workplace and you won’t be able to identify who has input specific responses.

Let’s go onto the next slide, please. I’ve told you a little bit already about what the benefits are as well as it’s free and you can plug in some information and send off a survey and automatically have generated reports, etc. Benefits of People at Work as well as that, for PCBU’s, it helps employers to comply with health and safety duties. It’s a really complex area. We all know psychological health and safety is a big-ticket item, a big talking point and employers are struggling in this space to be able to work out what they need to do. It’s also a mechanism for worker consultation and engagement. It can mean a reduction in claims related to psychological health. And as we know, people take a long time to recover from psychological injuries and illness, so these types of claims tend to blow out in costs as well as having someone away from work for a long period of time. And it also means that it could impact that person individually beyond the workplace.

The benefits of People at Work as well, positive message; it sends that positive message to workers that their health is valued, they’re important. And it improves worker productivity, satisfaction and engagement but as well as this, if we can go to the next slide, for regulators, for inspectors, what it does for us is it assists us to improve our understanding of how to identify psychosocial hazards and risks. And it provides us with ideas on control options that can be implemented to minimise these. It helps with monitoring compliance. What does best practise look like? How do we navigate monitoring compliance in this space? Tools and resources on the PAW site can be used obviously to educate us but we can also provide this as guidance to PCBU’s to assist them with assessing psychosocial hazards and risks and how to manage these effectively.

Next slide, please. People at Work, what is it based on? The premise for it is it’s based on this job demand resources model. That came out about 2001. And what that means is it’s got many decades of research behind it and it’s widely used. What it’s saying is that a combination of say, high job demands coupled with low job resources can result in work-related stress. That’s pretty straightforward. That speaks to us, but I can give an example in a bit more detail on what that means.

If we have work-related stress and it’s not managed, if we look at just stress by itself, that’s a big thing to tackle but if we break it down into those job demands, job resources and we look at those subheadings under that, we can tap into those different factors to assist us with managing that work-related stress. Because if we don’t manage it, then obviously, there are some negative outcomes which are those three boxes on the bottom. The outcomes are not interdependent, so what’s usually the case is it might be that someone starts developing physical aches and pains or perhaps they’re not sleeping, or they might develop poor health behaviour.

You’ve had a big day at work. Your work demands are increasing, your job demands are increasing. You’ve got a team of high staff turnover. The workplace has got some budget cuts where they can’t afford to backfill, so you are constantly in this state of, I must perform, I must perform. At the end of the day, over time, you start feeling stressed and that can present itself in aches and pains in your body, perhaps not sleeping and doing things like instead of coming home and walking the dog and making yourself a healthy meal, getting to bed at a reasonable hour, you’re likely to perhaps develop some of these poor health behaviours. It’s like this cycle, this negative cycle of poor health behaviours.

You might come home and sit on the couch, watch some Netflix, have a glass of wine, order some Uber Eats of something that may not be totally healthy and basically, over time, you develop that as a routine and that also impacts on our physical and psychological health.

Next slide, please. What does People at Work measure? You can see on the left-hand side, there are all these tiles. That’s breaking down those psychosocial hazards. It measures those particular things and then, we look at the right-hand side, those are some of the outcomes which we’ve talked about. Just looking at those things, there’s role overload or work overload, co-worker support, so whether we have good relationships with our co-workers. Supervisor support, really important. Group relational conflict which can lead to things like bullying and even violence if things escalate. Group task conflict, change, praise and recognition, procedural justice, job control, role ambiguity, emotional demands of the role, conflict, bullying, aggression as we already said.

The outcomes if these aren’t managed, psychological health suffers, our physical health sprains and strains. Generally, it comes out in muscle tension, musculoskeletal injuries and worker intentions can be measured as well. What that means is this survey can give you an indication as to whether workers are intending on taking some sick leave or maybe even resigning from their role.

Let’s go through the People at Work process, if we can go to the next slide please. There are five key steps. Step 1 is preparing your workplace, Step 2, conducting the survey, understanding the results. Step 3, 4, taking action, 5, reviewing and improving. If we move to the next slide, I’ll explain in a little bit more detail what each of these steps mean and when you go onto that digital platform, that website, you can also look at the training modules, so the learning modules. There is also guidance on each of those steps to take you through, so you know exactly what you need to do.

Preparing your workplace, what does that mean? It basically means you need to get your workplace ready to undertake this, if it’s going to be successful. First thing, we need to make sure we’ve got commitment from senior management. The next thing is there are going to be people so depending on the size of your workplace, you might need people who might need to be nominated as champions. They’re the people who will make sure that people in their work area are being prepared, explain to them the process, explain to them why they’re doing it and making sure that people do the survey.

The coordinator, so this is someone who coordinates all of the information and makes sure everyone is involved in the process. We need to make sure that people have designated tasks and accountable for tasks and it’s also a good idea to set some time frames. The most important thing is engaging and communicating with the workforce. Obviously sometimes, workers may feel fatigued in doing surveys, but this is a little bit different to a survey. We need to send a message that this is here to assist in improving how things are going in their workplace. It's about putting some controls in place or systems in place to assist with improving psychological health and safety at work.

Next slide, please. Step 2: Conducting the People at Work survey. As we saw on the home page, there are a whole heap of different options. If you’re an organisation that has 20 or more workers, you can go into the site and set up an organisational account. Again, it’s free and you can set up the survey in the system. And what you do then is you can access all those resources and communicate and promote the survey to your staff.

And then, when you’ve done those activities and you’ve set all those things up as per Step 1, you distribute the unique URL that is produced once you enter in all the details into the system and that’s where people can go to link in to access and respond to the survey.

Next slide, please. Step 3: Understanding your results. What happens at this point – and again, there is guidance and an e-learning module to help you with how to navigate the results – but you will access two reports. It’s a comprehensive report and an overview report. In these reports, you can see depending on the factors that you’ve included in your survey, things like what areas or perhaps what age bracket, whether there might be some issues with perhaps role clarity. You can break it down that way. You can also compare it to that benchmarking data.

And what the People at Work process encourages is once we have the results, we need to interpret them and really break them down to work out a plan of action to actually do something about it. It’s encouraged that focus groups are formed to break down those factors that are identified as issues to work on an action plan.

Step 4, that’s actually the action plan, taking action. We can go to the next slide, thank you. What does that mean? Taking action is simply that. Focusing on actually putting a process and documenting the actions and strategies, making them, setting up time frames to achieve things and it’s an agreed set of goals. That means it’s a consultative process between and among workers, work groups and the employers. And as you can see there, there is some guidance available on that site to help you through each step.

Step 5, just like the risk management process. Basically, it’s not a one-off exercise. We can’t just set it and forget it. We have to review and monitor to be able to improve. What we do is we look at repeating the People at Work process every 12 to 18 months. And we do that obviously, to ensure that the stuff that we’ve put in place, is that actually working? Is that effective? Is it doing what we want it to do? Has it perhaps even caused more issues? It’s important to review and make sure that you want to see and measure whether or not things are improving in your workplace as a result of doing this activity.

Next slide, please. As I said, it’s already available now. That’s our website, peopleatwork.gov.au. It went live last week. It’s called a soft launch, but the official launch isn’t until February 2021. If you’d like further information or any updates from WorkSafe Queensland, there’s our website. If you’d like to contact me or someone within the Psychological Health Unit, there’s our email, psychologicalhealth@oir.gov.au.

That’s it from me. If you’ve got any questions, please feel free to ask. I can’t see the chat, but I’ll do my best to hopefully assist with answering any questions.


Thanks so much, Tanya. That was really interesting. There are a couple of questions in there. Is there a cost in using the tool to access it or use it?

Tanya Orszulak:

Absolutely not. It’s free. It’s absolutely free. Accessing the tool – that’s the survey. Accessing all the resources, it’s totally free. The reports, everything generated is free of charge so anyone can use it.


And how long does it take to work through the tool itself?

Tanya Orszulak:

If you’re doing the survey, just the survey for someone to actually fill out and complete the responses, I’d say a maximum of 15 minutes.


And somebody asked one of the earlier slides showed a link or a connection between the risks or strains and sprains. They’re asking about what’s the link on the left and the risk of strains and sprains? I can’t remember exactly what the slide was.

Tanya Orszulak:

That might be when we were talking about those psychosocial hazards. They’re the hazards that if they are not managed, over time that stress response – that’s what it causes if they’re not managed – that shows itself in us with things like musculoskeletal injury. There is muscle tension and there’s more risk if your muscles are tense and you’re under stress, you have more chance of becoming injured because when you do tasks, your muscles are not relaxed and able to perform the task.


Absolutely, so a strong correlation between those two?

Tanya Orszulak:

Absolutely, yes. Musculoskeletal and stress, there is a physiological response that happens.


And has this been a long time coming? How long have you been involved in the work and how long has been the development lead time of this tool?

Tanya Orszulak:

This online portal has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears from different people because a lot of work has gone into this over at least, 12 months. The last 12 months have been really hectic so there has been a lot of consultation, extensive with industry including testing of reports, the design, the development of the graphics, what’s to be included, functionality. There is obviously collaboration amongst all those regulators so there is a lot of consultation there.

Our team or the Office of Industrial Relations Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has been looking at people at work since 2007 but as far as this online tool, online portal to access all these resources, it’s been a pretty hectic 12 months.


I’ll bet. And is there a particular size organisation that this is optimal for?

Tanya Orszulak:

As long as there are at least 20 workers. While that’s specifically to access the survey – and as I indicated earlier, that’s to protect the confidentiality or anonymity of the respondents. Any less than 20 means that they may be able to be identified so the surveys will only allow you to do that if you have a minimum of 20. I think there might be a maximum of 500 or 5000 but there is a FAQ drop down in those headings across the top of that home page that answers a lot of these questions.

If there are any kinds of questions you think of, I’m pretty sure you’ll find an answer in that FAQ. If not, you can contact us via email and contact the respective regulators depending on which State or Territory you’re from.


And I’m taking in there would also be details around how data is protected and how the tool is validated and the benchmarking behind it, would that be right?

Tanya Orszulak:

Absolutely, yes. The benchmarking that we currently use has been based from those initial research studies but what we’re looking at now, depending on the number of people who utilise this, the data that will be generated from this can set up some new benchmarks for us in 12 months to 2 years’ time and we’ll have more current data to benchmark. As far as the regulators are concerned, for PCBU’s, just reassure them that we can access some data. We can access how many people are doing the survey. We can access where they are doing the survey as far as State or Territory. We can access some of the responses, but it’s grouped data and there is no identifier whatsoever. We don’t know organisations or individuals. We don’t get that information. It’s all just group data.


Great. And last thing to finish on, somebody has mentioned as this is a soft launch, are we able to direct PCBU’s now or do we have to wait until Feb?

Tanya Orszulak:

Yes, you can. You don’t have to wait. You don’t have to wait. You can go in there now. It’s just the only thing is the reason why they’re doing the grand launch in February is simply because they just wanted to be mindful that everything is totally up and running and also, do a lot more engagements. There is going to be a lot more promotion but we’re happy to let PCBU’s, everyone know that they can access the site, view the resources and tools, set up their organisation in there, start using the survey. Absolutely ready to go now.


Terrific. Yes, and tough to get your message out right now too with end of year and all those sorts of things, and a clear space to do the launch.

Tanya Orszulak:



Thanks so much, Tanya. That was really, really interesting. Again, lots of questions and lots of engagement from folks in there. Thank you so much for being here and being part of it.

Tanya Orszulak:

Thank you very much. Have a great day, everyone. Thanks for joining me.

Page last reviewed: 16 February 2021
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Date printed 02 Dec 2021