Psychosocial risks

Colleagues discussing a piece of workIntroduction

Socio-economic and industrial developments have seen a change in the way we work. In some parts of the world this means more people working in services and fewer in industry. At the same time our understanding of complex health issues has grown, particularly around mental ill health.

The occupational safety and health profession has a significant contribution to make in the prevention of the occupational causes of mental ill-health, and is engaged in managing the psychosocial risk of:

  • stress
  • fatigue
  • bullying and harassment
  • violence and aggression.

There is growing evidence that links musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) with psychosocial risk factors.

Psychosocial risks can manifest in physical as well as mental ill-health.

Research has demonstrated the value of occupational safety and health professionals being directly engaged in and influencing the management of ten different measures identified as effective in dealing with psychosocial risks:

  • changes to the way work is organised;
  • redesign of the work area;
  • confidential counselling for employees;
  • establishment of a conflict resolution procedures;
  • changes to working time arrangements;
  • provision of training;
  • action taken by the establishment if individual employees work excessively long or irregular hours;
  • providing information to employees about psychosocial risks and their effect on health and safety;
  • designating who should be contacted in case of work-related psychosocial problems; and
  • the use of information or support from external sources on how to deal with psychosocial risks at work.

IOSH activities

IOSH has been actively engaged in these subject areas. Our Occupational health toolkit has sections on stress and musculoskeletal disorders. In 2016 we held a UK Parliamentary reception on mental health. We have published position papers on working hours and undertaken research into the effects of unacceptable behaviour on health and wellbeing at work.

In the wider mental health arena IOSH produced the leaflet 'Promoting mental health at work' and funds research:

There are a number of other research projects under way:

  • Mental health first aid in the workplace
  • Safeguarding seafarer mental health

Wider resources

If you’re looking for general guidance on the topic of psychosocial risks, visit: