There’s lots of talk about psychosocial health these days as though it’s something new. It isn’t. An employer under the WHS Act has to manage the health and safety risks workers are exposed to. So this always included psychosocial risks. It’s just become more topical following Covid and the publication of ISO 45003 in 2021.
Causes of poor psychosocial health
If the workers suffer stress, abuse, long periods of isolation, no control over their work, long or anti-social shifts, are exposed to traumatic events, are poorly supported, etc. then the likelihood of poor psychosocial health increases. You can read more about the risks through the Code of Practice for managing psychosocial hazards.
How to manage psychosocial health
As with all risks, there should be a process to identify the hazards, quantify the risks and manage them. An organisation must recognise the psychosocial hazards the workplace presents. It must understand how significant and likely these are likely to be. They must then attempt to mitigate the risk they pose by developing controls. Organisations should also remember their obligation to consult with workers throughout this process.
There should be some process for engaging directly with workers to help identify any potential issues. You will also need something in place if, despite your best efforts, things still go wrong.
Preventing psychosocial health issues
Prevention is always better than cure so recognising an issue earlier, will minimise the negative impacts and help that person back to full health quicker. The more open and honest communication you have with your workers, the easier this will be. Ways to keep this dialogue open is through regular one-to-ones, open-door policies, worker surveys, performance reviews, designated and trained counsellors, etc. If a worker says how they feel stress, depressed or hopeless it’s a sign to take further action.
When your risk controls are not enough
Even with all your controls in place, workers may still suffer from poor psychosocial health. If they do, you will need a process to allow workers to raise and escalate these issues. Sometimes they can be handled internally via the management team. However, sometimes external help may be needed such as trained therapists, counsellors or an Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). Your process should document the workplace’s escalation routes and provide the contact details for the available support.
If you have a management system it should talk about supporting worker’s mental health and how the organisation does that. Many don’t have access to a service like an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Where this is the case we recommend they reference the following free service offered via SIRA:
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