Where organisations fail in managing psychosocial risks (and how to fix this)

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Monday, 24 August, 2020 - 12:30
Industry news
National News

Most organisations, in general, fare poorly when it comes to addressing the underlying factors of psychosocial risks, according to an expert in the area.

This is because the focus is predominantly on organisational risk factors, rather than individual risk factors which are more based around emotional support, relationships and communication – often termed as soft skills, but critical elements in creating a psychologically safe environment, said David Broadhurst, co-founder and CEO of Codesafe, which specialises in improving worker engagement and reducing risk in the workplace.

“We also need to learn to identify and adopt delivery mechanisms and strategies which allow us to measure engagement and impact to ensure what we invest in and implemented is delivering value to people and the organisation no matter how complex the supply chain may be,” said Broadhurst.

Based on Safe Work Australia guidance, he said the two key factors (out of 11) that align with these issues and where significant improvements could be made would be around support and workplace relationships.

Broadhurst, who was speaking ahead of an AIHS webinar on addressing the underlying factors of psychosocial risks on 26 August, said that there are also potential significant gaps across the other nine factors.
“From a communication and implementation perspective, just ask any team leader to explain their bullying policy to confirm that, and an improved approach to that would also reduce the stress of the people charged with implementing the policies, procedures and processes, as well as the people charged with developing them and signing them off,” he said.

There are a number of steps that can be taken to address these issues, according to Broadhurst, who recommended putting more value and focus on soft skills and leadership coaching across frontline leadership people (possibly all levels).

Another important step is to equip all people with basic “life skills” coaching as part of their broader health and wellness strategies and induction and toolbox/lunch & learn processes.

“Look for and adopt proven approaches and evidence-based programs as a plug and play type approach to closing these gaps, if you don’t have the time, resources or inclination to develop your own, but do so through a broader but cohesive implementation strategy,” he said.

It is also important to move away from a compliance-driven “set and forget” models in addressing these underlying triggers in a more meaningful and sustainable way.

There are a number of important implications for OHS professionals in this, and Broadhurst recommended expanding training and the knowledge base to include organisational and behavioural psychology.

“Should we be the people who are charged with the duty of providing programs, policies, procedures and processes that contribute to creating a psychologically safe workplace?” he asked.

Broadhurst recommended OHS professionals expand their knowledge and work more collaboratively with people who have the experience in this field, such as HR and L&D professionals.

“But never underestimate the power in going to the people you are charged with keeping safe and through meaningful and humble consultation, listen and implement what solutions come from those sessions,” he said.

“This in itself is possibly one of the most beneficial things you could do to create the psychologically safe environment we are all striving to create.”

This approach to consultation will also assist you to address at least another five key issues identified in the SWA guidance.


Broadhurst will be speaking at part of an AIHS webinar on addressing the underlying factors of psychosocial risks on 26 August together with Carolyn Davis, a consultant for Australian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. For more information visit the event website, email  events@aihs.org.au or call (03) 8336 1995.