Chapter 19: Psychosocial Hazards and Occupational Stress

Chapter 19: Psychosocial Hazards and Occupational Stress


Exposure to work-related psychosocial hazards is escalating in today’s 24-hour society, which is increasingly dominated by knowledge work. This chapter – the first of three chapters focused on psychosocial hazards – introduces the topic and provides an overview of key concepts related to psychosocial hazards. It presents a framework of twelve work stressors that increase the risk of injury/illness: time pressure; cognitive demands; emotional demands; hours of work; poorly defined work roles; conflict; poorly managed change; violence and aggression; lack of job control; lack of supervisor and/or co-worker support; organisational injustice; and inadequate reward and recognition. The risk assessment process for psychosocial hazards is outlined and implications for Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) practice are discussed.

Keywords: psychosocial, occupational stress, stress, mental health, work stressors

First year of publication: 2012
Current Version Pending Review: 2012

Chapter 19: Psychosocial Hazards and Occupational Stress

Table of contents

1 Introduction
1.1 Definitions
2 Historical context
3 Extent of the problem
4 Understanding psychosocial hazards
4.1 Occupational stress and worker health and wellbeing
4.2 Psychosocial hazards and organisational outcomes
4.3 Psychosocial risk factors/work-related stressors: An illustrative framework
4.4 Psychosocial risk factors/work-related stressors explained
4.5 Individual differences
4.6 Risk assessment for psychosocial hazards
5 Risk control
6 Implications for OHS practice
6.1 High-risk occupations
6.2 Interactions between psychosocial hazards and HR practices, IR matters and line
management skills
6.3 Return-to-work implications
6.4 Workers with mental illness
7 Summary
Key authors and thinkers

Kïrsten A Way B.OccThy, B.A (Psych Hons), CPE, MAPS.
School of Psychology, University of Queensland.

Kïrsten is an Organisational Psychologist, Occupational Therapist and Certified Professional Ergonomist who specialises in how worker and group-level psychology can affect occupational health and safety. She has been integral in determining and implementing government policy in work-related psychological injury and has over 15 years experience investigating work-related injury or illnesses specifically due to occupational stress, workplace bullying, human factors and ergonomics, both in Australia and overseas. As well as working in private practice, she has worked in various positions for the OHS regulator both in Queensland and the United Kingdom. She is currently conducting research as part of her PhD studies at the University of Queensland and has published on the role of supervisors in conflict. She has been working collaboratively on research to develop a risk assessment tool for occupational stress and bullying with The University of Queensland and The Australian National University.

Peer reviewer
Bill Pappas BBSc, BA, BEd, DipTeaching, MVocCouns
Organisational Psychologist National Coordinator, Australian Psychological Society, Occupational Health Psychology Interest Group

Learning Outcomes: Psychosocial Hazards and Occupational Stress

The OHS Body of Knowledge takes a conceptual approach which enables it to be applied in different contexts and frameworks.

To optimise its value for education and professional development learning outcomes have been developed for each technical chapter in the Body of Knowledge.

The learning outcomes as described give an indication of what should be the capabilities of an OHS professional; it is up to those developing OHS education programs, OHS professionals planning their CPD or recruiters or employers selecting or developing people for the OHS function to consider the required breadth vs. depth .

Please read the section on using the learning outcomes before delving into the leaning outcomes of the individual chapters.

The numbers against each learning outcome refer to the chapter number of the BOK download page. No learning outcomes have been developed for the chapters considered introductory or underpinning knowledge (that is chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 1, .13, 14, 15.)

Find Out More About Using the OHS BOK Learning Outcomes