Psychosocial risks are a challenging issue in occupational safety and health. They have an impact at several different levels: the individual, the group or organization, and even nationally and globally.

Problems caused by psychosocial risks are not usually a simple consequence of work. However, employees spend a large proportion of their lives at work, and this means that it is important for organisations to promote a good work/life balance to help employees achieve better quality working lives. It would also be useful to stop the differentiation between 'work' and the ‘rest of living.’ Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) professionals can help by raising awareness of psychosocial risks, carrying out risk assessments with the involvement of both managers and workers (as psychosocial risks are related to how work is organised), and supporting improved wellbeing at work.

If a problem is just viewed from a medical point of view, then the solution usually focuses on medical treatment. It may therefore be more appropriate to view health as a continuum rather than a dichotomy. A bio psychosocial model, which considers the worker, their health problem and their environment, both at work and home could be more useful.

OSH practitioners should therefore advocate a holistic, proactive approach to managing psychosocial risks, working in partnership to:

  • tackle the effects of psychosocial risks

  • address the impact of these risks on employees' capacity to work, providing support and rehabilitation for those for those with resulting mental health issues and physical disabilities.

  • promote healthier lifestyles and wellbeing to help improve the general health of the workforce.

Promoting wellbeing can also offer health and safety professionals a fresh approach to getting health and safety on the agenda. It can help to increase business performance by engaging and motivating employees, improve recruitment and retention and address sickness absence and associated costs. It also provides good opportunities for health and safety professionals to work more closely with other professionals and to develop their own competence. An example of this co-operation can be seen with the IOSH/HWL Train 2015 Challenge, which aimed to raise awareness and improve understanding of psychosocial risks in the workplace.

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