Psychosocial safety and OHS professionals: know thyself

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Thursday, 4 May, 2023 - 12:30
Industry news
National News

When it comes to psychosocial hazards in the workplace, the best place for OHS professionals to start is by first understanding what psychological safety means to them.

Psychological safety will have a different meaning for each person and organisation, according to Diana Sheehan, executive director of Daly & Ritchie Consulting.

“Start to have conversations with workers and managers to find out what their views are when it comes to being psychologically safe. This gives OHS professionals a baseline to understand their current safety concerns,” she said.

Sheehan also observed that organisations fare differently when managing psychological safety.

“There are organisations who are doing extremely well, are proactive and preventative in their approach,” said Sheehan, who was speaking ahead of the upcoming AIHS National Health and Safety Conference, held 30 May to 1 June 2023 at the Brisbane Convention Centre.

“Other organisations are struggling with understanding what psychological safety is and are still trying to understand psychosocial hazards.

“However, there are also organisations who have not heard of psychosocial hazards or psychological safety.”

Addressing psychosocial hazards and risks in organisations requires strong influencing skills, and Sheehan said OHS professionals must look for opportunities to influence and effect change.

“On a one-to-one basis, an opportunity may be obvious or subtle. I can’t stress enough the importance of listening to others,” she said.

“People will engage with you if they believe you genuinely care. Often, in a compliance role, we can get caught up in the jargon, rules and regulation which can turn people away. “Listening to others and adapting your language to suit your audience will influence others, which results in increased awareness and education.”

Sheehan also observed OHS professionals may experience bias and prejudice when it comes to psychological safety.

Managers and workers may have different views and beliefs that will negatively influence how they engage with OHS professionals, she said.

“Understanding that we all have different experiences, means for the OHS professional to overcome common challenges will require them to be patient, look for different opportunities and take alternative approaches to educating and informing others,” said Sheehan.

“This will assist in developing professional relationships, resulting in others advocating psychological safety.”

Sheehan will deliver a presentation on “indirectly Influencing change to increase psychological safety” at the upcoming AIHS National Health and Safety Conference. Held from 30 May to 1 June 2023 at the Brisbane Convention Centre, this year’s conference theme is “Influence for Impact”. For more information please call (03) 8336 1995, email or visit the event website.