5 Barriers to Addressing Psychosocial Risk at Work

Psychosocial hazards

There is an increasing urgency to improve psychological health and safety in Australian workplaces. Employers are now explicitly required to manage psychosocial risks to worker health and safety. However, knowing where to start, who does what, and what to do next, isn’t always clear.

Here are five common barriers that many organisations face when devising and implementing a psychosocial risk management strategy:

1. Information overload

It is encouraging to see a range of guidance material, resources and tools providing information on creating psychologically healthy and safe workplaces. However, the plethora of information has left many employers confused about which information to follow, which model to apply, and how to practically implement effective systems to manage psychosocial risk within their organisation.

2. Lack of leadership support

Low or inconsistent levels of leadership engagement, support and understanding of the factors within the organisation that may impact mental health and a lack of organisational focus on the control of psychosocial risks or on mental health at work in general.

3. Lack of clearly defined responsibilities

Resulting in inadequate communication and collaboration between the various teams managing different aspects of psychological health and safety at work (e.g., risk management, leadership capability, wellbeing, psychological injury, and mental ill-health).

4. Unclear messaging

Inconsistent use and varied understanding of terms “mental health”, “wellbeing”, “psychosocial hazards” and “psychosocial risks” within the industry, in public messaging, and within organisations. Specifying the framework used and making the language consistent will help any organisational approach to workplace mental health.

5. Inadequate resources

The ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU), who is usually the employer, must manage risks to health and safety by eliminating risks as much as is reasonably practicable. However, many organisations are faced with a lack of organisational resources, competing priorities, or not enough time, staff, or money for effective implementation.

Despite the complexity and challenges, managing psychosocial risk is crucial in maintaining a productive and engaged workforce. It is recognised that mentally healthy workplaces contribute to a decrease in organisational disruptions and costs resulting from work-related harm and improved performance and productivity. And that is good news for people, businesses, and the bottom line.


About the author: Pippa Rose is General Manager at Aspect Group. She is an AHPRA Registered Occupational Therapist with WHS qualifications and a Qualified Lead Auditor Safety Management Systems including ISO 45003:2021 (Management of Psychosocial Risks).