The information in this article is general in nature and does not constitute legal advice.

To prevent sexual harassment, employers must treat sexual harassment as a workplace health and safety issue. This involves identifying and addressing the risks specific to a workplace [1]. These may include (but are not limited to) the risk factors listed below.

Culture Risks

  • High rates of workplace misconduct (bullying, harassment, discrimination and victimisation)
  • Poor workplace interactions, particularly between management/leadership and workers
  • Negative attitudes towards women
  • Negative attitudes towards minorities
  • Negative attitudes towards LGBTIQ+
  • Bias in talent management
  • Low levels of psychological safety
  • Psychological strain/high work demands
  • Low worker morale
  • Limited diversity and inclusion initiatives

Leadership Risks

  • Weak governance
  • Weak management oversight of workers
  • Hierarchical structure and leadership style
  • Weak leadership commitment to cultural change
  • Weak leadership capability
  • Weak management and leadership awareness and capability regarding work health and safety duties
  • Low worker consultation
  • Poor communication between leadership/management and workers
  • Emphasis on financial performance over worker psychological safety and wellbeing

Work Practices/Conditions

  • Overnight/after-hours work
  • High work demands
  • Job insecurity
  • On-site accommodation
  • Isolated workplaces with limited supervision and on-site support
  • Confined/physically restrictive workplaces
  • Weak work-life boundaries
  • Working from home
  • Some areas in or around the workplace are poorly lit
  • Workers are confined with co-workers or customers such as fly-in-fly-out workers in camps
  • Travel and overnight stays
  • Informal out-of-hours events
  • Lack of corporate emails and devices (staff use personal emails and devices to connect)

Power Imbalances

  • Male-dominated industry
  • Male-dominated workforce
  • Low worker diversity across race, culture and ethnicity
  • Concentration of men from the culturally dominant group in management and leadership positions
  • Lack of female representation in decision-making forums regarding health and safety
  • Male-dominated customer or client base
  • A cohort of younger workers


  • Insufficient workplace conduct training
  • Low knowledge of reporting and resolution processes


  • Low confidence in and use of grievance processes
  • Ineffective complaints resolution
  • Routine use of non-disclosure agreements to silence alleged victims
  • Lack of transparency regarding reported incidents, investigation outcomes, and resolutions

Employers must consult with staff as part of identifying risks. Consultation may involve focus groups, surveys, team meetings/toolbox meetings, individual conversations with people, regular ‘floor walks’, and talking to workers. In addition to worker consultation, it may be useful to walk through and assess the physical work environment, assess the online working environment, consider work systems and practices, and observe the culture of the workplace including how leaders, managers, supervisors, workers and customers/clients interact. Employers should also consider the industry context and review data and reports on industry culture and risks for harassment and other harmful workplace conduct as well as engage collaboratively in identifying risks with other businesses with which their workers interact.

Culture Plus Consulting can support you in meeting your positive duty through workplace culture reviews, risk assessment, learning and development, and advice. Email for details.

[1] A summary of potential risks can be found in Safe Work Australia’s 2021 ‘Preventing workplace sexual harassment: National guidance material’ (Safe Work National Guidance).