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Using a hierarchy of controls to manage psychosocial risk


As your organisation becomes more mature in its approach to wellbeing, you may start using a more formal risk management methodology to address the psychosocial hazards in your workplace.

In the same way that you can use a risk-based approach to understand  physical safety risks in your workplace, you can identify, assess and develop controls for psychosocial risks.

And, much the same as physical safety risks, not all controls are created equal.

Many of you will be familiar with the hierarchy of controls, which is a way of determining which actions will best control an exposure to harm.

But did you know that with a little adjustment, you can also apply the hierarchy of controls to psychosocial risks? Check out our psychosocial hierarchy of controls below:

Fix the work or fix the worker?

At the bottom is ‘wellbeing PPE’ – think EAP or resilience training: initiatives designed to ‘fix’ or reduce harm to workers who may be exposed to psychosocial hazards. Administrative controls (i.e. education) are workplace policies, intranets, or opt-in wellbeing promotion activities.

While these have their place, you ideally want to be focusing your efforts further up the pyramid. This is where you start to look at the risk exposures and designing work to be fundamentally healthier.

  • This could be designing workflows in a more efficient way to avoid peak periods of high stress.
  • This could be designing in more flexible work options and autonomy.
  • This could be by addressing poorly managed project deadlines.
  • This could be by building capability in your leaders to lead for wellbeing.

We aren’t suggesting this is easy work (it’s not!) – but this is where you make the biggest impact. This is where you create work that’s fundamentally sustainable, where people thrive.

Which level does your workplace focus on the most?x
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