Socio-economic and industrial developments have seen a change in the way we work. In some parts of the world this means more people working in services and fewer in industry. At the same time our understanding of complex health issues has grown, particularly around mental ill health.
The occupational safety and health profession has a significant contribution to make in preventing the occupational causes of mental ill-health, and is engaged in managing the psychosocial risk of:
- bullying and harassment
- violence and aggression.
There is growing evidence of links between musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and psychosocial risk factors.
Psychosocial risks can manifest in physical as well as mental ill health.
Research has demonstrated the value of occupational safety and health professionals being directly engaged in and influencing the management of 10 different measures identified as effective in dealing with psychosocial risks:
- changes to the way work is organised;
- redesign of the work area;
- confidential counselling for employees;
- establishment of conflict resolution procedures;
- changes to working time arrangements;
- provision of training;
- action taken by the establishment if individual employees work excessively long or irregular hours;
- providing information to employees about psychosocial risks and their effect on health and safety;
- designating who should be contacted in case of work-related psychosocial problems; and
- the use of information or support from external sources on dealing with psychosocial risks at work.
IOSH has been actively engaged in these subject areas. Our Occupational Health toolkit has sections on stress and musculoskeletal disorders. In 2016 we held a UK Parliamentary reception on mental health. We have published position papers on working hours and funded research into the effects of unacceptable behaviour on health and wellbeing at work.
In the wider mental health arena IOSH produced the leaflet Promoting mental health at work and funds research:
- Role of health problems and drug treatments in accidental injury at work, which reports on an analysis of increased risk of workplace injury arising from a range of health problems, including mental health disorders.
- Return to work after common mental disorders
The same research has identified the barriers and facilitators to workers returning after common mental health disorders, which will be useful for practitioners to consider when developing programmes in this area.
There are a number of other research projects under way:
- Mental health first aid in the workplace
- Safeguarding seafarer mental health
If you're looking for general guidance on the topic of psychosocial risks, visit:
- World Health Organization The health impact of psychosocial hazards at work
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Safety and Health Psychosocial risk factors in the workplace
- European Agency for Safety and Health at Work Psychosocial risks in Europe: Prevalence and strategies for prevention
- Consider the Healthy workplaces quality standard from the UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence
- The UK Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), which has produced guidance on Promoting positive mental health in the workplace
Take a look at information and resources for specific psychosocial risks.