Workplace safety is being redefined by a new global focus on psychosocial risks and hazards. While the center of attention remains on physical risks and hazards, a combination of psychological and social aspects is entering the picture. Perhaps the best known of these is job stress and burnout, which lead to employee absence, lower productivity and higher turnover—all affecting the company’s bottom line.
Regulations and standards
Regulatory bodies around the world are taking action on psychosocial risks and hazards. For example, Safe Work Australia released model WHS laws and guidance just over a year after the release of ISO45003:2021. This standard provides guidance on managing psychosocial risks and promoting well-being at work. Model WHS laws are practical guides, not mandates. It is up to individual states to issue mandates and enforce regulations.
It is happening. Last October, NSW passed a regulation mandating that employers manage psychosocial risks like physical risks. Other states followed—Victoria, September 2022 and Western Australia, December 2022. The Commonwealth jurisdiction will come into effect on April 1, 2023.
The European Union (EU) is active on this front as well. Sweden, Belgium and Denmark are three member states that approach psychosocial risks in a way that echoes the general preventative principles of Directive 89/391/EEC.
Common psychosocial risks and hazards at work
Psychosocial risks and hazards should not decrease the focus on physical risks and hazards. A balanced approach ensures a healthy and safe working environment. The list of mental and social influences on the workplace includes:
- Job demands
- Low job control
- Poor support
- Lack of role clarity
- Poor organizational change management
- Inadequate reward and recognition
- Poor organizational justice
- Traumatic events or materials
- Remote or isolated work
- Poor physical environment
- Violence and aggression
- Harassment, including sexual harassment
- Conflict or poor workplace relationships and interactions
Identifying psychosocial risks and hazards can be difficult. They are not always visible and can be hard to measure. And yet, employers are required to have policies and procedures in place and support affected employees.
Bottom line: how can your company keep psychosocial risks and hazards in check and provide a safe workplace? The answer lies in understanding your workforce and leveraging EHS technology.
Identify the biggest psychosocial risks in your organization
Stress, bullying, and harassment are better known psychosocial risks and hazards, with a lot of support and training programs available. Other risks are less known, making them harder to find and measure for program success. Here are the major challenges associated with psychosocial risks and hazards. See which ones apply to your organization.
Lack of awareness and understanding: Many employers and employees may not be aware of the potential psychosocial risks and hazards in the workplace and may not know how to identify or prevent them.
Stigma: Employees may be hesitant to report psychosocial risks and hazards or seek support due to the stigma often associated with mental health issues.
Limited resources: Smaller companies may not have the resources or expertise to effectively identify and manage psychosocial risks and hazards in the workplace.
Workload pressure: Psychosocial risks and hazards can be caused by heavy workloads, tight deadlines and high-pressure environments, which can be difficult to manage.
Remote work: With the increasing trend of remote work, it can be harder for employers to monitor and support employees’ mental health and well-being.
Workplace stress: Stress can be caused by several factors, including workload, tight deadlines, and difficult relationships with colleagues or supervisors.
Employers should have processes and systems to help employees manage stress and provide support when needed. Online training programs offer an effective way to train and equip employees on a range of topics like bullying and harassment, preventing workplace accidents and promoting mental health on the job.
EHS technology can also act as a lever for streamlining compliance and managing risks. In addition, it is noteworthy how an EHS platform can equip EHS professionals to manage psychosocial risks and hazards.
How EHS technology helps manage psychosocial risks and hazards
To proactively manage psychosocial risks and hazards, EHS professionals need an EHS technology platform that enables users to conduct risk assessments that quantify the risk level and lead to actions that drive accountability. The key is to optimize your limited resources to do the most good.
This same platform helps create a safety culture in your organization by automating the process of capturing, tracking, and reporting incidents and near misses. It integrates seamlessly with injuries, investigations, root cause analysis and lessons learned. The same is true with policies and procedures—all centrally located in the platform and easily updated.
Need to take the pulse of employees about workplace stress? The EHS platform facilitates the process of conducting surveys and analyzing results. Given employee engagement drives performance, knowing where they stand on critical health and wellbeing issues is of high interest to management.
Manage psychosocial risks/hazards for compliance, work culture and productivity
In many countries, laws require employers to provide a safe and healthy work environment, but there are other incentives as well. A number of studies show that managing employees’ psychosocial risks and hazards in the workplace is also good for business. Addressing risks related to role clarity, work environment, and reward and recognition, all contribute to a positive culture and work environment that outperforms peer organizations.