Managing risks

The model WHS laws require persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to take care of the health and safety of their workers, including themselves, contractors, volunteers and other people like clients, customers and visitors at your workplace. You must treat the risk of sexual harassment just as you would any other workplace hazard. This means applying a risk management approach to eliminate or minimise risks so far as is reasonably practicable.  

You must eliminate or minimise health and safety risks of workplace sexual harassment so far as is reasonably practicable. This process is known as risk management and involves: 

  • identifying the hazards  

  • assessing the associated risks 

  • implementing control measures to eliminate or minimise risks, and 

  • regularly reviewing control measures to ensure they remain effective.  

You must do these things in consultation with your workers and any HSRs if you have them. 

The Guide on preventing workplace sexual harassment has information about risks and how to identify, assess and control them. 

Identifying hazards 

To identify the risk of sexual harassment, you need to gather information about the hazards in your workplace and assess the associated risk.  

To find out if it could happen at your workplace, you should: 

  • walk around and look at your workplace, particularly for areas where someone could hide, restrict movement or if there is anything offensive on walls or workstations. 

  • look at the online environment, like the security settings, social media use and how workers interact online 

  • think about work systems and practices 

  • watch your workplace culture, worker behaviour and how leaders interact with workers 

  • do surveys 

  • talk to health and safety, and worker representatives, about worker concerns 

  • review past formal or informal complaints. 

Workplaces with higher risk of sexual harassment 

Risk of it happening at your workplace could be higher if you have: 

  • low worker diversity 

  • power imbalances 

  • a workplace culture that supports or tolerates sexual and other types of harassment 

  • alcohol and social duties as part of work 

  • workers in locations where they can’t get help and support 

  • leaders who don’t understand sexual harassment, its nature, drivers and impacts. 

Risks can also come from working with clients, customers and members of the public. 

Controlling risks  

To manage health and safety risks you should: 

  • provide a safe physical and online work environment 

  • implement safe work systems and procedures 

  • have clear workplace policies, and 

  • provide workers with information, training and supervision 

Choosing the right control measures depends on your workplace.  

Talk to your workers, HSRs and health and safety committees, if you have them. 

The Guide on preventing workplace sexual harassment has information on practical steps you can take to control the risks.