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What are psychosocial risk factors?

Physical risk factors such as force, posture and repetition can be harmful to the body and can lead to people developing musculoskeletal disorders. However, research has shown that psychosocial risk factors also need to be taken into account.

Psychosocial risk factors are things that may affect workers' psychological response to their work and workplace conditions (including working relationships with supervisors and colleagues). Examples are:

As well as leading to stress, which is a hazard in its own right, psychosocial risk factors can lead to musculoskeletal disorders. For example, there can be stress-related changes in the body (such as increased muscle tension) that can make people more susceptible to musculoskeletal problems; or individuals may change their behaviour, for example doing without rest breaks to try and cope with deadlines.

So both the physical and psychosocial factors need to be identified and controlled in order to have the greatest benefit. The best way to achieve this is by using an ergonomic approach, which looks at achieving the best “fit” between the work, the working environment and the needs and capabilities of the workers.

Many jobs are not well designed and include some or all of the following undesirable features, which may lead to psychosocial risks:

What can I do to reduce the risks of Psychosocial Factors?

As with physical risk factors, psychosocial issues are best addressed with full consultation and involvement of the workforce.

Consider the following control measures that can be often be applied to improve the working environment within your workplace:

References

Management of Health and Safety at Work. Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Approved Code of Practice and guidance (L21) (Second Edition) HSE Books 2000 ISBN 0 7176 2488 9

Updated 2011-08-26