Poor environmental conditions


Step 1: Learn about poor environmental conditions

What are poor environmental conditions?

Poor environmental conditions in the workplace include exposure to poor quality or hazardous workplace environments. These can create a risk to health and safety.

Some examples of poor environmental conditions include:

  • poor air quality
  • high or disturbing noise levels
  • poor lighting
  • extreme temperatures
  • limited available workspace

What are your rights and responsibilities at work?

Employers must provide and maintain a workplace that is safe and free from risks to health, including psychological health, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Employees have a responsibility to take reasonable care of their own health and safety in the workplace,

Follow the risk management process below to manage risks associated with poor environmental conditions.

Step 2: Consult your employees

Consultation can be done in a number of ways. Depending on your workplace, it can be as simple as casually walking around your workplace having a conversation, or as formal as setting up a health and safety committee.

Good consultation has lots of benefits – it leads to better decision making and greater cooperation and trust between employers and employees, who get a better understanding of each other's views.

Consultation isn't just good practice though, it's actually a legal requirement for employers. Employers must consult with employees including health and safety representatives (if any), about matters that directly affect, or are likely to directly affect, their health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes identifying whether poor environmental conditions may be a hazard at the workplace, and working out how to eliminate or reduce any risks to health and safety occurring. At a minimum, consultation must involve sharing information about any health and safety issues, giving employees reasonable opportunity to share their views on those issues, and taking those views into consideration.

Learn about your rights and responsibilities, as well as how best to consult

Step 3: Identify hazards and risks

A hazard is anything that has the potential to cause harm to a person. Think of hazards like 'situations' or 'things' in the workplace that can hurt someone, either physically or mentally. The risk is the potential of the harm actually happening.

For example, a cable on the floor is a physical hazard. The risk is being physically injured from tripping on that cable. The same applies to hazards that affect our mental health – these are known as psychosocial hazards.

Poor environmental conditions can exist as a psychosocial hazard. Exposure to poor environmental conditions can increase the risk to health and safety. When risks associated with poor environmental conditions are not effectively managed, this may lead to or exacerbate physical and/or psychological injuries.

Examples of poor environmental conditions include:

  • unmanaged biological or chemical hazards
  • poor air quality or lighting
  • extreme temperature
  • poor ergonomics like desks and chairs not set up at the right height or position
  • working near unsafe machinery or uncontrolled hazardous substances
  • poor workplace hygiene facilities

Often multiple hazards can be present at the same time and can combine to increase the risk of harm occurring. For example, poor environmental conditions, high job demands, and poor support from colleagues or supervisors can combine to increase the risk of harm.

Step 4: Assess the risk

A risk assessment will help you understand the risks to your employees' health and safety, and how to prioritise your efforts to manage them.

It is good practice to identify hazards, both individually and together, that are creating risks to health and safety. Once you have identified the hazards, you can assess the risk of them occurring.

Risk assessment tips

Step 5: control the risks

A control simply means 'ways to manage' an issue. Controls are things you put in place to eliminate or reduce risks. The list could be endless, but it's really just about taking action, so far as reasonably practicable, to manage the risks associated with poor environmental conditions.

WorkSafe has a range of information about health and safety topics that are important to your workplace and can help identify hazards and control risks that can lead to work-related stress.

Relevant resources

Related industries and safety topics

Step 6: Share, review and improve

A safe and mentally healthy workplace needs ongoing commitment and engagement.

Check whether the controls you've implemented are still relevant and effective.

By sharing the outcomes of these reviews, as well as suggestions and recommendations for improvements, you can keep the conversation going. This will continue to build trust and cooperation between you and your employees. Consultation must be undertaken before making any changes to the workplace, things used at the workplace, or the conduct of work at the workplace, and these changes should be communicated to your employees.

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Disclaimer: The WorkWell Toolkit provides general information only. Please consider your specific circumstances, needs and seek appropriate professional advice.