Modern workplace health and safety teams are not only concerned with physical hazards but also with the mental and emotional wellbeing of their employees. This article explores the importance of understanding, identifying, and managing psychosocial hazards in the workplace.
What are Workplace Psychosocial Hazards?
Psychosocial hazards are aspects of the work environment that have the ability to cause physical or psychological harm or both. Workers are likely to be exposed to a range of psychosocial factors. Because everyone and every workplace is different there is no single way to determine if a factor is a psychosocial hazard.
People can often use the terms psychosocial risks and psychosocial hazards interchangeably but they are not the same. A psychosocial hazard is a situation or factor that could increase the likelihood of an employee experiencing a psychological injury. A psychosocial risk, on the other hand, is the likelihood for a psychological injury to occur when exposed to a hazard and the frequency and duration of exposure.
A guide from the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health states a factor can be classified as a psychosocial hazard if they negatively affect one or multiple of the below factors:
- The management of work
- Organisational structure
- Stress levels
- Overall health (mental and physical) of workers
- Turnover rate
- Job satisfaction
Psychosocial hazards are complex and they can be invisible without a formal identification method such as surveys, focus groups, analysis of HR and workers compensation data, and targeted workplace assessments. Psychosocial hazards are unique to each environment, reach out to the AP Psychology & Consulting Services Strategic Consulting team to look at the right approach for your organisation.
A government agency completes a psychosocial risk assessment which identifies a high turnover rate, low employee satisfaction and a feeling of a lack of control over their job. This identification of a psychosocial hazard leads the organisation to implement a multi-faceted action plan across the employee lifecycle to enhance job control and autonomy. This approach increases employee satisfaction and reduces people risk to the organisation.
The Psychosocial Risk Management Process
Managing psychosocial risk involves a comprehensive four-step process:
- Identify the Hazards: Engage with workers to identify psychosocial hazards through evidence-based surveys, focus groups, incident reports, and other data. To successfully identify hazards there must be a high level of consultation with workers so you can get genuine feedback; this mix of data and consultation will verify the approach.
- Assess the Risks: Determine the level of risk by considering the likelihood and the intensity of exposure. Doing this process well allows you to prioritise the controls based on the risk to workers and the organisation.
- Control the Risks: Implement measures to eliminate or mitigate risks. For example:
- Poor support: provide training for leaders and supervisors which includes workplace psychological health and safety education
- High Job Demand: Consult with workers to determine feasible goals, implement job rotation and flexible working where possible.
- Bullying/Workplace Harassment: Implement and enforce policies and provide support systems.
- Poor Job Clarity: Define roles, expectations, and provide proper training.
- Monitor and Review Control Measures: Regularly review controls to ensure effectiveness, adapting them as needed.
Psychological health and safety is crucial for a thriving workplace. By understanding the nuances of psychosocial hazards and risks, businesses can foster an environment that supports both the mental and physical wellbeing of their employees. Engaging in open communication, risk assessments, and implementing thoughtful control measures leads to a more productive, engaged, and resilient workforce.
In the end, the psychological health and safety of employees is not just a responsibility but a vital investment in the overall success and harmony of any organisation. As the saying goes, your first priority is your people.