Are you managing the psychosocial risks in your workplace? 

As of April this year, a new Code of Practice and Regulation, Managing the risk of psychosocial hazards at work, was applied to all workplaces covered by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

The new level of legislation is intended to create psychologically healthy and safe workplaces. While this move is primarily geared to support staff wellbeing, workplaces that manage psychosocial risk factors tend to have healthier, happier employees, with common benefits for the employer including improved productivity, performance, client satisfaction, and higher retention … and now of course, reduced risk of liability. 

So aside from being bound by legislation, managing psychosocial hazards seems a sensible business decision all round. However, how many employers (or employee for that matter) know what psychosocial hazards are? 

 Based on my experience in organisational psychology, I’d say not too many. To clarify, a psychosocial hazard is anything that could cause psychological harm (e.g., harm to someone’s mental health). Harm can include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic-stress disorder and sleep disturbances. 

 If you’re wondering if your workplace is at risk … it is. All workplaces have psychosocial hazards, in fact there are up 14 common hazards in any work environment. 

 Work related hazards include the way work is carried out, such as workloads, deadlines and methods. Equally important is the context in which work occurs, including relationships and interaction with managers, supervisors, colleagues and clients or customers. 

 It’s important to understand that just working has inherent risk of psychological harm to the worker, particularly if they care about their role and we hope they do. Also, employers cannot eliminate all psychosocial hazards, however they can, and are now required, to eliminate risk where possible and minimise risk as far as is reasonably practical.  

 This process involves:

  1. Identifying hazards 
  2. Assess the level of risk 
  3. Taking control measures 
  4. Review of control measures

Organisations have a duty of care to provide a safe place for their employee to work, but from a business perspective it’s important to note that workplace related psychological injuries typically have significant longer recovery times, higher cost and require more time off work than physical injuries. 

 With that in mind any steps taken to manage psychosocial hazards should be multi-faceted, the good old staff survey on its own just isn’t going to cut it. 

 A science-based assessment methodology is required for valid results and meaningful, effective control. If you don’t have the internal resources/knowledge then consider engaging an external consultant who specialising in this area.