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Psychosocial risks. Ending the stigma

Early November saw the EU Occupational Safety and Health Agency’s current Healthy Workplaces Campaign come to an end with a summit in Bilbao. The theme of the latest campaign was, as you will know from previous articles, the management of stress and psychosocial risks in the workplace. Though IIRSM has been a campaign partner for the last three campaigns, this one generated a considerable amount of interest. This may partly be due to the fact that the topic has been one which organisations have in the past been reluctant to tackle, preferring to adopt the ‘ostrich policy’ (see last month’s article). Alternatively some have preferred to regard stress related illness as a weakness in the employee.

This, together with the general stigma associated in people’s minds with the whole subject of mental illness, has meant that the subject has until now not received the same attention as physical safety or even other occupational health issues. This is in spite of clear guidance that psychosocial risks are intended to fall within the scope of those risks to be assessed under the EU Framework Directive and its national legislation.

As our contribution to this important campaign, IIRSM has conducted its own research and has held a series of awareness raising forums.

The first of our research projects, which have been carried out in association with the Department of Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, looked at the impact of the changes that have taken place in working practices over recent years. Issues include the degrees of control which employees have over their work and consultation on changes and topics such as homeworking and teleworking which have become increasingly common with the advent of new technology. Interestingly the most common issue, stated by 70 per cent of respondents, was excessive workloads – employees feel unable to carry out their role adequately unless they work in excess of their contractual hours. This result mirrored almost exactly that found by a survey carried out by EU–OSHA itself.

As a result of the research IIRSM published a technical paper earlier in the year called The Impact of New Working Methods – A Psychosocial Risk Perspective, which can be accessed in our info hub or by clicking here.


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