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Unveiling the Hidden Threats in Workplace Safety

In today’s episode, we’re going to dig into an issue that’s important for all of us psychosocial safety in the workplace.

Did you know that if you have a business in Australia, you have legal responsibilities related to psychosocial safety?

In today’s episode, we’re going to dive into three main topics around psychosocial safety:

  1. What it is
  2. What it means for your business
  3. What should we do about it

What it is

According to Safe Work Australia, a psychosocial hazard is anything that could cause psychological harm, so that’s a harm to a person’s mental health, or it could also cause physical harm.

A psychosocial hazard is not just stress. Stress in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can cause psychological or even physical harm, especially if it’s over a long period of time and the level of stress is high.

Psychological harm that may be caused would include anxiety, depression, PTSD, sleep disorders anything along those mental health lines. Physical harm created by stress might be a heart attack, musculoskeletal injuries, chronic disease or even fatigue.

Psychosocial hazards can come from the design or the management of the work, they can come from the environment, the equipment at the workplace or it can come from workplace interactions or behaviors:

  • Job demands – for example requirement to work long hours
  • Job control – (aka micromanagement) feeling like they don’t have any control over either the amount of work that they’re doing or the content.
  • Lack of role clarity – not being given much direction at all
  • Poor organisational change management
  • Inadequate reward and recognition
  • Organisational justice, fairness or transparency – people are treated equally within an organisation
  • A traumatic event or being exposed to material that might cause some trauma
  • Remote or isolated work – working in isolation or travelling alone can create loneliness or missing a chance for social interaction/collaboration.
  • A poor physical environment – for example, not having the right equipment
  • Violence and aggression – not just from other employees bur members of the public or clients
  • Bullying, harassment, including sexual harassment
  • Conflict or poor workplace relationships

What it means for your business & what should we do about it

If you’re a business owner or manager, it’s your responsibility in this case is to eliminate psychosocial risks or, if it’s not reasonably practicable to eliminate them, then to minimise them as far as it’s practical for you to do so.

  1. Identify the hazard – find out what could cause harm
  2. Assess the risks – understand the nature of the harm that has caused & how serious it could be
  3. Control the risks – implement control measures to eliminate it, or if that’s not possible, to reduce the risk of it happening as much as you can
  4. Review – make sure that what you’re implemented is going to be effective over time

Safework provides a lot of resources on this,

Safe Work Australia – Psychosocial Hazard Guides

Safe Work NSW – Mental Health Guides

Managing psychosocial hazards in your workplaces to treat it like any other risk management exercise, and the process that you need to go through to show that you’ve considered the risks and that you’re taking those reasonable steps to manage them.

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