Applying risk matrices for assessing the risk of psychosocial hazards at work

Although wide-ranging amendments in health and safety regulations at the
European and national level oblige employers to conduct psychosocial risk
assessment, it is still under debate how psychosocial hazards can be properly
evaluated. For psychosocial hazards, an epidemiological, risk-oriented
understanding similar to physical hazards is still missing, why most existing
approaches for hazard evaluation insuciently conceive psychosocial risk as a
combination of the probability of a hazard and the severity of its consequences
(harm), as found in traditional risk matrix approaches (RMA). We aim to
contribute to a methodological advancement in psychosocial risk assessment
by adapting the RMA from physical onto psychosocial hazards. First, we
compare and rate already existing procedures of psychosocial risk evaluation
regarding their ability to reliably assess and prioritize risk. Second, we construct
a theoretical framework that allows the risk matrix for assessing psychosocial
risk. This is done by developing different categories of harm based on
psychological theories of healthy work design and classifying hazards through
statistical procedures. Taking methodological and theoretical considerations
into account, we propose a 3 × 3 risk matrix that scales probability and
severity for psychosocial risk assessment. Odds ratios between hazards and
harm can be used to statistically assess psychosocial risks. This allows for
both risk evaluation and prioritizing to further conduct risk-mitigation. Our
contribution advances the RMA as a framework that allows for assessing the
relation between psychosocial hazards and harm disregarding which theory
of work stress is applied or which tool is used for hazard identification. By
this, we also contribute to further possible developments in empirical research
regarding how to assess the risk of workplace stress. The risk matrix can help to
understand how psychosocial hazards can be evaluated and organizations can
use the approach as a guidance to establish a suitable method for psychosocial
risk evaluation.


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