Keeping the workplace safe has always been a priority for employers, but with the psychosocial side of safety now receiving more deliberate attention, it is vital that employers ensure they are creating a work environment that is conducive to their employees’ safety and wellbeing.
The psychosocial safety of employees can be affected by a range of factors, including interactions with colleagues and leaders, work demands (cognitive, physical and emotional), the physical environment within which they work, and the broader organisational culture. In this article, we will explore the importance of combining risk assessment and climate measurement to understand psychosocial safety in the workplace.
Under the new regulations, ensuring the safety of employees is no longer limited to their physical safety. Psychosocial safety refers to the protection of an individual’s mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
A positive psychosocial safety climate is one where employees feel they are psychologically safe, feel supported in their work and are not exposed to work-related stressors that can negatively affect their mental health. Such a climate can help boost productivity and create a more positive working environment.
The requirements (and limitations) of risk assessment for psychosocial safety
Risk assessment for psychosocial hazards in the workplace involves identifying potential hazards, evaluating the risks associated with these hazards, and implementing measures to eliminate or manage these risks.
Risk assessment can provide several benefits, including identifying and characterising work-related hazards, identifying the nature and severity of the risks to employees, and prioritising necessary interventions for reducing or preventing psychosocial harm in the workplace.
However, traditional risk assessments can have certain limitations, especially when it comes to capturing some of the less obvious causes of psychosocial harm. These limitations may include inadequate evaluation of social and psychological factors, a failure to acknowledge the subjective nature of risk perception and overlooking the cumulative effects of ongoing exposure to psychosocial hazards.
To effectively address these limitations, it is essential to adapt risk assessment frameworks to incorporate the frequency and duration of exposure to psychosocial hazards, moving beyond traditional approaches that focus solely on likelihood and consequence.
An organisation that is seeking to move beyond compliance with legislation to create a truly safe work environment for employees will look beyond hazards to the broader environmental features of the workplace.
What is psychosocial safety climate?
Psychosocial safety climate (PSC) refers to the perceptions of management and employees of the organisation’s support and prioritisation of mental health and wellbeing of its workers. It encompasses physical, social and psychological aspects of the workplace environment that can influence a person’s mental health and wellbeing.
A positive PSC has been associated with improved employee mental health and wellbeing, as well as increased job satisfaction and engagement. By contrast, a negative PSC is associated with poor mental health, low job satisfaction, high stress levels and higher rates of turnover.
The value of measuring psychosocial safety climate
While risk assessment identifies hazards and analyses associated risks, a PSC assessment focuses on the organisational climate and management practices that can contribute to, or undermine, positive psychosocial safety in the workplace.
Measuring PSC can provide valuable insights into employees’ perceptions of the workplace environment, identify areas of concern that may not have been identified in the risk assessment, and help to guide organisational changes that will enhance employees’ psychosocial wellbeing over time.
By leveraging measures of PSC in addition to conventional risk assessments, employers can better ascertain where improvements need to be made and ensure the environment is ready to respond positively to psychosocial and physical hazards if or when they arise.
Here at Sentis, we’ve updated our Safety Climate Survey tool to measure the dimensions of safety climate relevant to psychosocial and physical safety. This updated tool can help leaders to gauge the positives and negatives of the psychosocial safety climate in their workplace, giving them insight into what areas to focus on.
Why risk assessment and climate measurement are essential for psychosocial safety
Risk assessment and PSC measurement should be used collaboratively, with the results informing each other. Identifying hazards through risk assessment and management factors through PSC can be helpful in prioritising interventions to improve psychosocial health, safety and wellbeing in the workplace.
By accurately identifying risks and hazards through risk assessments and measuring PSC to understand the climate that is driving or reducing risk, employers can target interventions aimed at supporting and enhancing the psychosocial wellbeing of their workforce.
Together, risk assessment and PSC measures are integral to protecting the psychosocial safety of employees in the workplace. Employers should view the two approaches as complementary and interconnected, using the outcomes from each assessment to hone their psychosocial safety strategies.
By doing so, employers can improve the overall safety and wellbeing of their workers, leading to greater productivity and a general sense of employee empowerment that can be mutually beneficial.
Ready to make a safety culture change in your workplace? Get in touch to hear more about our solutions from one of our expert consultants.
 Dollard, M., & McTernan, W. (2011). Psychosocial safety climate: A multilevel theory of work stress in the health and community service sector. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, 20(4), 287-293. doi:10.1017/S2045796011000588