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Free help to manage workplace psychosocial hazards

New online resource has been launched that is available for free.
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Free help to manage workplace psychosocial hazards

Free help to manage workplace psychosocial hazards

9 March 2021

By Gaby Grammeno

A new online resource has been launched - and is available free of charge - to help workplaces manage the risk of psychosocial hazards and the consequent psychological injuries.

‘People at Work’ is a risk assessment tool to assist employers in identifying, assessing and controlling psychological health and safety risks in their organisation.

Tackling psychosocial hazards

In recent years the ‘toxic workplace’ has taken on a new meaning, as the risk of psychological injuries has risen in prominence, broadening the traditional WHS focus on physical risks such as dangerous machinery, electrical, chemical and radiation risks, as well as slow-building harm like ‘industrial deafness’ and overuse syndrome.

While ‘psychosocial hazards’ may sound vague and insubstantial to some people, the consequences are all too real for those who experience conditions such a anxiety and depression because of what they experience at work. In severe cases, it can lead to burnout, breakdown and long periods off work.

Psychosocial hazards can undermine people’s job performance and adversely affect the business as well, for example, with higher levels of absenteeism and presenteeism (workers turning up for work but unable to function effectively), increased accident and injury rates, and poor overall business performance due to lower productivity and higher staff turnover.

About 8,000 Australian workers every year make successful workers compensation claims for psychological injuries. These tend to cost more and result in more time off work than physical injuries, so they push up the cost of workers comp insurance.

A wide range of workplace factors can give rise to such conditions, including bullying, discrimination, fatigue, harassment, work overload, aggressive management styles, the employer’s response to WHS complaints, and allegations about job performance.

Blame for psychological injuries has also been sheeted home to job insecurity, conflicting demands, ineffective communications, lack of role clarity, conflict with colleagues or clients, poorly managed organisational change, lack of influence over the way the job is done or decisions that affect employees, and lack of support from management or colleagues.

All these and many other aspects of working life can wreak havoc with a person’s mental health, as has been shown countless times in injury data and cases that have gone to court.

Employers’ challenges in managing psychosocial risks include identifying the most relevant issues in their own workplaces, deciding how best to tackle them and actually implementing effective risk controls. This is where the new resource can be used to formulate the risk management strategy.

Five-step process

‘People at Work’ is an easy-to-use digital platform setting out a five-step process with resources, interactive learning modules, a self-administered survey, and automated customised reports that businesses can access and interpret without specialist assistance.

The first step is all about gaining commitment, building a business case and developing buy-in from the people in your workplace who will manage the implementation process, becoming ‘people at work champions’. Champions support the process by sharing the workload, supporting the coordinator and engaging workers.

Step Two enables you to conduct an online staff survey and access either a comprehensive report or an overview generated for your organisation. Survey data is anonymous and reported in the aggregate only.

The survey results (Step Three) will help you understand which psychosocial hazards and factors are relevant to your workplace, and ways in which these might be addressed.

Step Four focuses on effective planning and establishing an agreed set of goals with clear timeframes, and Step Five involves monitoring and reviewing the process.

As an initiative jointly funded by Australia’s WHS regulators, the resource provides online training in many topics, including how to develop an action plan and implement risk controls. It enables employers to add customised demographics like workgroups and roles, and receive reports identifying high-risk areas with recommended control measures, benchmarking and guidance.

It’s in every employer’s best interests to foster a working environment that enables everyone to be at their best, by minimising psychosocial risks.

Find out more by visiting the People at Work website.

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