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Overview of People at Work

What is People at Work?

People at Work is a psychosocial risk assessment process. It aims to help organisations identify and manage workplace risks to the psychological health of workers, volunteers and all people within a workplace.

Organisations that undertake People at Work will have access to:

  • the People at Work  survey, a risk assessment tool that is available to Australian organisations at no cost
  • all materials required to administer and report on the People at Work survey, including a paper based survey, administration instructions, a spreadsheet for reporting, and focus group and action planning guides.
  • additional resources to support organisations implementing a psychosocial risk management approach and evaluating the effectiveness of chosen interventions.

Why manage risks to psychological health?

In Australia, all jurisdictions are covered by work health and safety legislation, of which the general principle is that employers, so far as is reasonably practicable, are required to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, including psychological health.

It also makes good business sense to prevent or minimise risks to psychological health. Work environments that do not adequately manage these risks can incur significant human and financial costs.

In particular, this can lead to:

  • poor worker health, both physical and psychological
  • breakdown of individual and team relationships
  • poor morale and erosion of worker loyalty and commitment
  • reduced efficiency, productivity, and profitability
  • poor public image and reputation
  • increased costs associated with counselling, worker assistance and mediation
  • increased absenteeism and staff turnover
  • increased costs with recruitment and training of new workers
  • increased workers’ compensation claims and legal costs.

Can People at Work help me comply with health and safety law?

Generally, employers have duties under health and safety legislation to eliminate, so far as is reasonably practicable, risks to worker health. Risk management processes are used to identify and assess risks, and take action. The overall aim of People at Work is to assist employers in the implementation of a risk management process for psychosocial hazards and factors in the workplace.

What does the assessment tool measure?

People at Work measures psychosocial hazards and factors through the use of the People at Work  survey. These hazards are based on a comprehensive review of job demands and job resources that have been studied in occupational health literature.High levels of job demands and low levels of job resources increase the risk of psychological harm, and include:

Job demands Job resources
  • role overload
  • role ambiguity
  • role conflict
  • cognitive demand
  • emotional demand
  • group task conflict
  • group relationship conflict
  • job control
  • supervisor support
  • co-worker support
  • praise and recognition
  • procedural justice
  • change consultation

What are the benefits of implementing People at Work?

Benefits of implementing People at Work include:

  • a focus on management of work-related psychosocial risk and prevention of psychological injury
  • communication of a clear message to workers that their organisation values their health and wellbeing
  • taking positive steps towards complying with health and safety laws in relation to psychological health.

What is involved in implementing People at Work?

To help organisations undertake People at Work, a range of resources are provided including the People at Work survey, a spreadsheet to assist with survey reporting, and guidance materials outlining how to implement People at Work in your organisation.

The key steps involved in implementing the survey are:

  • preparing your workplace by communicating the purpose of the survey and engaging managers in supporting the process
  • determining your hazards and risks by having your workers complete the survey
  • engaging your workers in the outcomes of the survey, and consulting them on proposed actions and strategies to address hazards and risks identified
  • implementing actions to control the risks identified
  • reviewing and improving risk controls.

Because risk management is not a one-off exercise, it is recommended that organisations repeat the assessment on a regular basis (e.g. annually). This allows assessment of the effectiveness of chosen interventions.

Background to People at Work

Established in 2007, the People at Work research project was a research collaboration among Queensland University of Technology, The Australian National University, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, WorkCover NSW, WorkSafe Victoria, Comcare, Safe Work Australia, and beyondblue.

The overall aim of the People at Work research project was to assist employers to identify psychosocial hazards and factors and implement a psychosocial risk management process at the workplace.

Between 2007 and 2015, the research collaboration achieved a number of key milestones including:

  • the development and validation of a survey tool for assessing psychosocial hazards and factors.
  • the creation of a set of Australian benchmarks documenting the prevalence of psychosocial hazards and factors across jurisdictions, sectors, industries, and occupations.
  • freely available guidance materials to support organisations through the psychosocial risk management process (e.g., project management plan, pre and post-survey communication plans, tip sheets for conducting focus groups and writing action plans).
  • written and video case studies.

The outcomes of this research are documented in the final paper (PDF, 2594.43 KB) .

Following the completion of the People at Work research project, the participating jurisdictions worked collaboratively to translate People at Work to a self-administered, financially sustainable set of resources to be available both nationally and internationally.

People at Work partners include:

Safe Work Australia ComcareQueensland Government
SafeWork NSWBeyond blue
Last updated
06 December 2018

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