Controlling and reviewing risks
Preventative and response controls organisations can you put in place to eliminate or minimise the likelihood of sexual harassment occurring in the workplace.
Once risk factors have been identified and assessed, and the effectiveness of current control measures analysed, you need to determine the most effective measures to prevent and minimise sexual harassment and further harm or risk that can arise if sexual harassment does occur. This process should address both:
- Preventative controls – designed to eliminate or minimise the drivers of sexual harassment and prevent sexual harassment from occurring; and
- Responsive controls – designed to eliminate or minimise further harm if sexual harassment occurs
Every organisation is unique. Different factors will determine the most effective prevention and response framework for your organisation.
Consultation with workers and related third party businesses, as well as engaging with external stakeholders is important in this phase. It is required under health and safety laws throughout the risk management process and will aid your organisation in deciding both the most effective measures to implement and the timing for doing so.
As a general guideline, controls should be:
- adaptable, and
- designed to minimise harm to all.
Possible control measures
Control measures should be put in place to eliminate or minimise any risks. The control measures will vary from organisation to organisation as they are often very context specific. However, here are some proactive strategies which employers and unions suggested during the Respect@Work National Inquiry.
- Where alcohol is present in workplaces or at work events - limiting or not offering alcohol at work events; introducing policies about and monitoring the responsible use and service of alcohol, or supervision and security protocols to monitor and respond to staff and customers under the influence of alcohol who pose a risk to the safety of others in the workplace.
- Where workers work and live at remote worksites - using site planning and environmental safety protocols to control risks posed by the remote nature of the site (for example, layout and allocation of accommodation at remote sites; access to support services remotely; enhanced lighting and secure walkways).
- Where a large component of work performed by workers involves interaction with customers - implementing measures and strategies to control the risk of sexual harassment by customers, such as workplace and public campaigns to stop abuse and violence and promote respectful behaviour; procedures for requesting prompt attendance by security when customers engage in sexual harassment or other offensive behaviour; and ensuring the business marketing campaigns and uniforms are designed in a way that avoids sexualisation of staff or the work environment.
- Where workers are seconded to work at client sites and are away from the employer-controlled workplace - making safe working environments at client sites a contractual term of engagement; and conducting one-on-one discussions with the worker before they depart reminding them of the prohibition on sexual harassment, outlining the support and reporting avenues available to them and strategies and processes for addressing any issues that arise.
- Where workers provide feedback about behaviour of a co-worker or the work culture that suggests sexual harassment has occurred or may occur - taking steps such as engaging in discussions with individuals or groups about sexual harassment, or use strategies designed to motivate acceptable behaviour.
Risk management is a continual process. Embedding ongoing and regular tracking, testing and evaluation of your chosen control measures is critical to ensuring they remain effective, meet stakeholder expectations and that, as an organisation, you are continually improving.
Irrespective of the maturity and depth of your risk management process, for every risk and associated control there should be scheduled and ongoing review dates. Ideally, reviews should be integrated with your organisation’s broader monitoring and evaluation system, if you have one, but may be stand-alone if those systems do not exist in your organisation.
In addition to scheduled monitoring and review, ad hoc reviews are recommended whenever there are considerable changes to the workplace, for example a shift in management teams and culture, or interactions with new suppliers. Reviews should also be carried out after every sexual harassment complaint. The causes, processes, systems and support as well as the person’s experience throughout should be evaluated and any necessary improvements implemented and recorded.
Reviewing control measures should be done regularly and is required:
- when the control measure is not eliminating or minimising the risks so far as is reasonably practicable
- before a change at the workplace that is likely to give rise to a new or different health and safety risk that the control measure may not effectively control
- if a new hazard or risk is identified
- if the results of consultation indicate a review is necessary, or
- if an HSR requests a review because they reasonably believe one of the above has occurred and it has not been adequately reviewed already