How well do you manage psychosocial risk in your workplace?

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Workplaces routinely identify risks linked to physical safety. Some are minor such as tripping hazards and ergonomic work stations, through to catastrophic risks which are life threatening. For many workplaces though, the same priority level is not applied to employee mental health and wellbeing.

Some organisations are increasingly recognising the benefits of looking after and investing in their people and proactively managing risks to mental health. Others are very early on in their journey and in some cases there are organisations who aren’t even interested. Regardless of your current approach to psychosocial safety in the workplace, now it is time to stand up and take notice.

In June 2021, ISO 45003 ‘Psychological health and safety at work: managing psychosocial risks in the workplace’ guidelines were released (The Standard). This is the first global standard providing guidance on the management of psychosocial risks and the promotion of wellbeing at work. It provides information on how to recognise psychosocial hazards with the potential to harm workers and offers examples to help manage these.

Psychosocial risks can come in many forms:

  • How a persons work is organised i.e. role ambiguity, prolonged restructure, work overload or underload, insecure employment, fatigue
  • Social factors at work i.e interpersonal conflict, insufficient reward and recognition, bullying, low supervisor support
  • Work environment and hazardous tasks i.e. inadequate equipment, excessive noise, extreme temperature

Why is it important?

When psychosocial risk is not identified and mitigated effectively, there can be number of negative outcomes for both workers and the organisation.

Negative impacts for workers can include:

  • Poor health and associated conditions (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders)
  • Poor health behaviours (unhealthy eating, substance misuse)
  • Reduced job satisfaction, commitment and productivity
  • Negative outcomes for the organisation:
  • Increased costs due to absence
  • High turnover
  • Reduced product or service quality
  • Workplace investigations and litigation
  • Damage to brand reputation

Additionally:

  • It recognises the less obvious and less visible potential workplace health and safety issues including the very strong need to identify and prevent them.
  • The Standard is strong on its guidance of appropriate workplace systems and processes for recovery of psycho-social harms.
  • It covers all levels of staff in an organisation and seeks to address some cultural lag in organisations which may downplay or stigmatise such workplace health and safety issues.
  • The Standard is also driven by the very high costs, material and human, associated with such harms and reflects the effort to mitigate against rising health care system and government contribution costs.
  • It allows you to meet and grow compliance capability and mitigate against a range of organisational risks.
  • The standard, when implemented can help your organisation integrate psychosocial risk management processes into your existing Workplace Health and Safety Management system and your existing processes. By doing this you can adopt a sustainable approach to proactively addressing psychosocial risk in the workplace and demonstrate you are meeting your legal and moral obligations.

It is currently voluntary, so there is no legal requirement to adopt it. But it is a ‘child standard’ of the legislated ISO45001 Occupational Health and Safety, so it is likely to help you meet relevant legal obligations under work, health and safety legislation. Additionally, dismissing The Standard may leave organisations open to negligence if they are aware of best practice and are not proactively working towards it.

This presents a great opportunity to be on the front foot and promote your workplace as a leader in your industry.

So…. how well is psychosocial risk addressed in your workplace?

In the coming week Mindseye Training and Consulting will be releasing a quick guide to The Standard, and be providing you with tools to get you started.

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