Reducing psychosocial risks in the workplace?

Psychosocial hazards can affect a business as well as an individual. Higher levels of absenteeism and presenteeism can increase injury and accident rates with poor overall business performance due to decreased productivity and increased staff turnover.

Every year approximately 8000 Australian workers submit a successful workers compensation claim for psychological injuries, what is unsure is how many workers don’t make claims, but these workers job performance are undermined by psychological issues and work stress.


Employers have a responsibility for managing psychosocial risk

Work health and safety laws clearly define ‘health’ to include mental health, so an employer has a duty of care to manage health and safety including workers psychological health.

The approach isn’t any different to managing other types of hazards – identify the risk, assess them and control them, preferably by eliminating the risk where possible.

Workers and their representatives have a better understanding of the psychological issues in the workplace, involving them in consultation is a more logical and productive way to start.  Involving the workers will assist in ensuring the measures put into place are both appropriate and effective.

Training the staff

Ensuring information and staff are trained especially managers and supervisors is and essential element of psychosocial risk management.  For example – performance management can be stressful for some workers, so encouraging coaching to supervisors in how to provide feedback in a way which is respectful and helpful, rather than in a way that causes further distress and feelings of humiliation can help to ease psychosocial pressures on staff.


While it is helpful to have general processes in place to eliminate workload, role ambiguity, providing praise and recognition for achievements and clearly defined procedures outlining how grievances are effective, providing support to individuals who need it on occasions such as referring them to an assistance program may be more appropriate.

Employees returning to work

Employees returning to work after time off from a psychological issue may face additional challenges and often need confidential and careful support structured to their circumstances upon return.

Senior management commitment is a vital prerequisite to any successful effort to create a workplace culture that will maximise workers health, safety, and wellbeing along with productivity.


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