Poor support is a psychosocial hazard. It occurs when workers do not have the requisite emotional or practical support to ensure that they can safely do their job. This support can come from employers, co-workers, managers or supervisors.
Providing adequate support is important to help workers through challenging situations in their work. The availability or quality of support can vary depending on the type of work, industry and location of the workplace.
Poor support in the workplace can have significant impacts on workers ranging from increased stress to decreased job satisfaction, absenteeism and even physical and mental health issues, such as insomnia, depression, and cardiovascular disease.
Examples of poor support as a psychosocial hazard include:
- Not having the things needed to do the work well, safely or on time.
- Not getting necessary information.
- Not enough supervisor support.
- Not being able to easily get help.
- A workplace culture that discourages support.
- Inadequate co-worker support.
- Not having a union present.
- A workplace that discourages union activity.
- inadequate support for reasonable adjustments or return to work
- inadequate emotional or practical support for co-workers and managers.
Remember, your employer must consult HSRs, or workers where there is not an HSR present, on matters of health and safety under section 35 of the OHS Act.
Some ways that employer's can control this hazard include:
- Encouraging collaboration and input from workers into work and consulting on work design.
- Putting aside paid time for union delegates and HSR's to have meetings and interact with co-workers.
- Fair and transparent performance reviews that include constructive feedback and are goal-oriented.
- Adequate staff levels and resources to support staff.
- Clear management structures and reporting procedures.
- Responsive, empathetic and reliable communication and systems to facilitate this.
- Flexible work practices to support worker wellbeing.
- Thorough induction and training processes for workers and supervisors.
- Give workers the things they need to do their jobs well and safely e.g. they have the right tools, equipment and resources
- Have good information sharing systems so that HSR's can quickly access any necessary information about work systems and worker's health and safety.
- Meaningfully consult with HSR's on the adequacy of support systems, policies and processes
- Set up the physical workplace so it's easy to get help from others.
Other examples of what good support looks like include but are not limited to:
- the provision of information and advice
- support with completing tasks
- coaching and mentoring
- debriefing after difficult situations
- listening while people vent frustrations
- being caring and empathetic
- help when making decisions and solving problems
- sharing resources.
Key resources containing information on addressing poor support:
WorkSafe's topic page on poor support - contains detailed action employers should take to address poor support.
Safe Work Australia's topic page on poor support
Mind Your Head has an excellent database on psychosocial hazards. It breaks down hazards into their impacts and the risk assessment and control measures that can be used. Find it here.
Updated July 2023