Two common psychosocial risk challenges facing organisations

A common challenge for organisations in addressing psychosocial risks is getting the right balance between the implementation of an organisation-wide strategy and the practical management of psychosocial risks as they arise, according to an international law firm. 

“The tension tends to come through most clearly when the key teams responsible for delivering on the broader psychosocial risk management strategy are also relied on to provide advice and input into managing these risks at a local level,” said Harriet Smith, senior associate at MinterEllison.

This ties in with a related psychosocial risks challenge: resourcing, said Smith, who explained that many WHS and HR teams already operate at a high capacity. 

“Add in the significant amount of legislative and regulatory change regarding psychosocial risk (including under both WHS and employment laws) as well as increased internal and external scrutiny of organisational programs and processes, and there will almost certainly be a tangible impact on workloads and existing resources,” said Smith, who was speaking ahead of an AIHS webinar on legal insights on psychosocial safety matters, which will be held on Thursday 14 March from 2:30 - 3:30pm AEDT.

In her experience, Smith affirmed that most organisations are committed to taking real action to manage psychosocial risks. 

However, there is variation in how each organisation is achieving this and how far progressed they are on that journey – both of which are impacted by a wide range of internal and external factors.

With increased legislation and regulation around psychosocial risk mitigation and management, Smith explained that boards and executives are expected to lead from the front in implementing effective psychosocial risk management strategies across their organisations.

“Comprehensive due diligence reporting, proactive workforce engagement and visible leadership are essential,” she said.

“Effective consultation with your workforce is non-negotiable. Often, a combination of consultation mechanisms, such as surveys, forums, focus groups, 1:1 conversations, etc., is needed to ensure you allow all affected workers to participate in hazard and risk identification and design effective control measures for their work environment.”

There are some important implications for WHS professionals, who Smith said continue to play a key role in supporting organisations to manage psychosocial risk. 

“Their knowledge and expertise in managing safety issues at both local and organisational levels is crucial to enabling their organisation to develop and implement a risk management strategy that complies with the evolving legal landscape,” she said.

“In addition to staying on top of legal and regulatory developments, close collaboration with HR teams and management continues to be essential to effective psychosocial risk management.”

Smith also said that WHS professionals should leverage their networks to keep up-to-date with what is happening in the industry and how colleagues are navigating the same issues.

“This can be the source of incredibly valuable insight and comfort in knowing you’re not alone,” she said.

Smith will be co-presenting a webinar on legal insights on psychosocial safety matters with Deanna McMaster, partner at MinterEllison, on Thursday 14 March from 2:30 - 3:30pm AEDT. The webinar will identify the top ‘need to know’ issues about the psychosocial WHS legal framework, examine the practical implications for employers, and navigate current and future legal changes. For more information please visit the event website.