In today's fast-paced work environment, it is not uncommon for employees to experience stress, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. These psychosocial hazards can significantly impact the wellbeing of workers and the productivity of an organisation.
As such, employers need to identify these risks and take steps to eliminate or minimise them following workplace health and safety regulations.
This article explores psychosocial hazards, how they affect workers, and what employers can do to create a healthy and safe work environment.
What is a psychosocial risk?
Psychosocial risk threatens someone's health and safety from exposure to one or more workplace hazards (14 of the most common psychosocial hazards are in this article...keep reading!).
Psychosocial hazards in the workplace can change how a person feels about their job and lead to negative symptoms like stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, or even suicide. These risks can come from how an organisation is set up and run, the relationships between people at work, the size of the workload, and other sources of stress in the workplace.
Why is psychosocial safety critical for employers and business owners?
Workplace health and safety—including psychosocial safety—is crucial for several reasons.
1. Protecting workers: Workplace dangers can result in illness, injury, disability, or even death. Employers can help prevent harm to their employees by prioritising health and safety in the workplace.
2. Reducing costs: Workplace injuries and accidents can cost employers a lot of money due to lost productivity, compensation claims, and fines. Long-term costs of these expenses can be decreased by investing in workplace health and safety.
3. Increasing productivity: A secure and healthy work environment can boost employee morale, job satisfaction, and output.
4. Meeting legal obligations: Under WHS laws, employers must give employees a safe workplace.
5. Enhancing reputation: Businesses prioritising workplace health and safety are considered good corporate citizens and may benefit from improved reputation among key stakeholders, including clients, investors, and staff.
6. Preventing psychosocial harm: Stress, bullying, and other psychosocial risks can harm a worker's mental health and wellbeing. Employers can help avoid undesirable outcomes like burnout or employee turnover by proactively addressing these hazards.
From 1 April 2023, the Queensland government will update employers, employees, and business owners' roles in managing Psychosocial Hazards at work. Other state governments will likely follow suit across Australia, so keeping ahead of the curve and adjusting business processes and procedures is good.
Common psychosocial hazards
- High or low job demands: Sustained or intense high physical, mental, or emotional needs that are excessive, unreasonable, or chronically exceed workers' capacity. Or monotonous work with shallow mental demands.
- Low job control: Workers with little or no control over their workplace, daily tasks, or goals.
- Poor support: Tasks or jobs where supervisors and coworkers don't provide enough emotional or practical support, training, information, tools, equipment, or resources.
- Low role clarity: Jobs with unclear tasks, frequent changes, or conflicting job roles, responsibilities, and expectations.
- Poor organisational change management: Management of organisational change that lacks proper forethought, communication, support, or management.
- Low reward and recognition: Jobs in which there is a disparity between the effort put in by workers and the credit or rewards they receive, whether formal or informal.
- Poor organisational justice: A lack of procedural fairness (fairways to make decisions), informational fairness (keeping relevant people informed), or interpersonal fairness (treating people with respect and dignity).
- Poor workplace relationships: Poor relationships or conflict between workers, managers, supervisors, coworkers, or other people with whom workers must interact. Frequent or too many disagreements, hostile or rude comments from one person or more than one person.
- Remote or isolated work: Work done alone due to location, time, or nature. Working in remote locations with limited resources and long travel times is possible. Solitary work involves long-term absence from home or working alone.
- Poor environmental conditions: Exposure to hazardous work environments that create a stress response.
- Traumatic events: It could mean reading, hearing, or watching stories about traumatic events. A person is more likely to find an event traumatic if it comes as a surprise, seems out of control, puts their life or safety at risk, or results from cruel behaviour.
- Violence and aggression: Any time someone is mistreated, threatened or attacked at work or while doing their job. This includes being hurt, threatened, or assaulted by clients, customers, patients, visitors, or others.
- Bullying: When a worker or group of workers is treated unreasonably, which puts their health and safety at risk. This includes bullying by workers, clients, patients, visitors, or others.
- Harassment, including sexual harassment: Harassment based on a person's age, disability, race, gender, relationship status, family responsibilities, sexual orientation, gender identity, or status as an intersex person.
Simply put, employers and business owners are responsible for ensuring that their workers are safe and healthy, both physically and mentally. This includes workers directly hired by the employer and those whose work is influenced or directed by the employer (like a consultant).
How to manage psychosocial hazards at work
Workplaces must manage psychosocial risks by following a specific process that involves identifying hazards, minimising risks, controlling risks within a particular order of importance, and regularly reviewing control measures. This process is known as the risk management process.
1. Conduct a workplace assessment: To start, look for and rate any possible psychosocial hazards in your workplace. Things like workload, job requirements, relationships with other people, and the organisation's culture can cause this. Once you know these risks, you can devise ways to protect employees from them.
2. Implement policies and procedures: Create clear policies and procedures that deal with workplace psychosocial hazards and then implement them. This can include policies against bullying and harassment, programmes to deal with stress, and employee help. All employees should know what these rules expect of them.
3. Provide training: Teach employees about the risks of psychosocial hazards and how to deal with stress, resolve conflicts, and communicate effectively. Mental Health First Aid® Australia's MHFAider training is sufficient, and we run monthly courses - learn more about our Mental Health First Aid™ training options. This will help employees notice when their work environment is causing stress or other problems and give them tools to deal with them. MHFA training will also equip WHS Officers with essential skills needed to manage psychosocial injuries in the workplace.
4. Foster a positive work environment: Foster a good work environment by encouraging open communication between employees and management, promoting a balance between work and personal life, recognising employees' accomplishments, and giving them chances to grow in their careers. A good work environment can help employees feel less stressed and create a more helpful atmosphere.
5. Monitor progress: Use surveys or employee feedback to check your plans for dealing with psychosocial hazards in the workplace. Change your approach as needed to make sure you keep getting better. By tracking how things are going over time, you can see where the organisation might need more help or where current strategies are working well.
It is critical for employers and business owners to manage the risk of psychosocial hazards to ensure a safe and healthy workplace. Companies can avoid adverse outcomes like stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression among their employees by identifying and managing these risks.
Effective management of psychosocial hazards depends on compliance with WHS laws. It is more crucial than ever for businesses to take action and prioritise their employees' mental health and wellbeing in light of upcoming changes to managing psychosocial hazards in Queensland. By doing this, they boost overall success and productivity while also fostering a positive work environment.
You can learn more about the code of practice on the WorkSafe website.
Undertake Mental Health First Aid™ Training
Becoming an Accredited Mental Health First Aider in Australia is a great way to equip yourself with the necessary skills and knowledge to assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis. By completing the Mental Health First Aid™ course and passing the assessment, you can provide immediate support until professional help arrives.
With over 1 million Australians already trained in Mental Health First Aid, becoming accredited will not only benefit those around you but also contribute towards breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health. Book into an MHFA training course with MiTraining today - face-to-face and blended delivery options are available.