Understanding Psychological Safety and Psychosocial Risk

With the release of the new Model Code of Practice: Managing psychosocial hazards at work in July 2022, psychological safety and psychosocial risks are currently at the top of most safety agendas.

Psychological safety and psychosocial risks both relate to the workplace but they differ in the factors that contribute to them and their impact on employees.

Psychological safety is a positive attribute that fosters a supportive work environment, while psychosocial risks are negative factors that can harm employee well-being and productivity.

Both are very important aspects of workplace health and safety that require attention from employers to create a safe and healthy work environment.

Psychosocial risks can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. On the other hand, promoting psychological safety can help create a positive work environment that supports employee engagement and productivity.

What is Psychological Safety
Psychological safety refers to a work environment in which employees feel safe to express themselves and take risks without fear of negative consequences such as humiliation, punishment or discrimination. Psychological safety is a positive attribute, as it fosters an environment in which employees feel valued, respected, and able to speak up.

What is Psychosocial Risk
Psychosocial risks refer to work-related factors that may have negative effects on an employee’s mental health and well-being due to job demands like excessive workloads, time pressure, low job control, role ambiguity or conflict. Psychosocial risks may also include issues related to work-life balance, such as long work hours, job insecurity, and inadequate support for work-life balance.

Exposure to traumatic events or materials is also classed as a psychosocial hazard and can cause psychological and/or physical harm. This may result from exposure to violence, harassment, or bullying at work, critical incidents such as accidents or natural disasters.

Employers can take several steps to proactively manage psychosocial risks in the workplace. Here are some strategies:

  1. Identify the risks: The first step is to identify the potential risks in the workplace through employee surveys, risk assessments, reviewing incident reports, listen to employee feedback, exposure to violence, critical incidents, or traumatic events.
  2. Develop policies and procedures: Employers should develop policies and procedures that address the identified risks. This can include policies related to workload, work-life balance, workplace relationships, workplace harassment and bullying, protocols for managing critical incidents or violence prevention programs.
  3. Promote a supportive work culture: Employers should foster a work environment that is psychologically safe and supportive. One that emphasises open and safe communication, collaboration, and supports employee’s ability to speak up. This can also include promoting work-life balance, providing opportunities for employee feedback, and addressing workplace stressors, and providing resources to help employees manage stress and build resilience.
  4. Provide training: Employers should provide training to employees and managers on how to recognise and manage psychosocial risks, as well as on how to provide support to colleagues who may be experiencing psychological distress.
  5. Ensure adequate resources: Employers should ensure that employees have adequate resources to perform their job duties, such as appropriate training, tools, and equipment.
  6. Offer support and assistance: Employers should provide support and assistance to employees who are experiencing psychosocial risks. This can include access to mental health support, employee assistance programs, and other resources.
  7. Monitor and evaluate: Employers should monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their strategies to manage psychosocial risks in the workplace. This can involve regular assessments, surveys, as well as provide opportunities for employees to provide feedback and raise concerns.

By taking a proactive approach to managing psychosocial risks in the workplace, employers can create a safe and supportive work environment that supports employee well-being and productivity.

Safe Work Australia have many workplace mental health resources available on their website which are available to download free of charge.

Mental Health Support

If you or a colleague are feeling depressed, stressed or anxious there are services to help.

Safety Australia Group have Safety Consultants that can help you review and implement a plan for your workplace.  Contact us today by completing the online enquiry form below: