Identifying psychosocial risk factors is the first step to making changes to protect workers. With that in mind, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has developed a set of measures to evaluate potential psychosocial health hazards in the workplace.
"Psychosocial risk factors are those aspects of the design and management of work, (e.g., scheduling, job demands, task complexity), as well as its social and organizational contexts, (e.g., interpersonal relationships, role requirements, organizational climate), that have the potential to cause physical or psychological harm to employees," according to a new NIOSH publication. "Given the potential negative impact of psychosocial factors acting as stressors in the workplace, it is important to include evaluation of these factors during workplace investigations to identify problem areas and make recommendations for improving job design, working conditions and interpersonal working relationships."
In a report published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the authors describe the measures to ascertain psychosocial risk factors for field use during NIOSH investigations. While the research was done for use within NIOSH, "the findings can be adapted for use at most workplaces," the document explains.
NIOSH undertakes health hazard evaluations at the request of employees and others to identify hazardous exposures and develop strategies to mitigate them. In addition to things such as exposure to hazardous chemicals are exposure to "many varied psychosocial risks."
NIOSH convened a team of eight experts to develop the evaluation for psychosocial risk factors. The group created constructs separated into those measured at the organizational level through interviews with management and observations of the work environment and at the individual level measured through employee surveys.
The constructs had to be issues that could be changed or managed. Therefore, dissatisfaction with salary was not included since it cannot always be changed.
The group came up with 24 measures covering 22 constructs. They were organized at the job, organization, interpersonal, and personal levels.
Under the job-level constructs, for example, was job control. It is measured through questions such as: "How much influence do you have over the order in which you perform tasks at work?"
Another job-level construct is perception of risk. Sample items included on questionnaires were "the safety conditions where I work are good" or "the overall quality of the physical environment where I work is poor."
Organization-level constructs include topics such as organizational justice and safety climate. Interpersonal-level constructs included harassment and discrimination, and workplace incivility.
Personal-level constructs included work-family conflict.
With information obtained during the investigation, project officers can look for relationships between stressors and strains if there is enough statistical power based on sample size, the authors said. The stressors measures can be used "to explore issues and present descriptive statistics from which recommendations can be made."
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
November 15, 2012
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