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Psychosocial risk management in company practice

Project number: F 2358 Institution: Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) / Kantar Deutschland GmbH Status: Completed Project


The German Occupational Health and Safety Act obliges employers to design work in a way that risks to physical and mental health are avoided as far as possible. In doing so, psychosocial hazards must also be taken into account.

The aim of the research project was to expand the empirical knowledge on the implementation of psychosocial risk assessment in company practice. For this purpose representative data from a survey of 6,500 companies that was conducted in 2015 as part of the German Joint Occupational Safety and Health Strategy (Gemeinsame Deutsche Arbeitsschutzstrategie, GDA) were analysed. Additionally, labour inspectors from state authorities and accident insurance institutions (N=17) and persons from 41 companies who are actively managing psychosocial risks in their company were interviewed.

As the analyses of the GDA survey data indicate, psychosocial risk assessments, which are required by German OSH law, have so far only been carried out in a minority of German companies. For many relevant psychosocial risks, mandatory and universal standards are missing. Therefore, psychosocial risks cannot be assessed and managed by the traditional OSH approach of checking the generally accepted standards. Instead, a discursive and reflexive process of assessing and managing psychosocial risks must be organised involving all company stakeholders, in particular superiors, employees and OSH experts. Hereby, the focus should be on what is already being done and what needs to be done further in the company to avoid psychosocial risks as far as possible. For the choice of instruments and procedures for psychosocial risk assessment, it should be decisive whether and to what extent they enable and support such a communication and design process.

In order to emphasize hazard-prevention in the risk management process, the focus needs to shift from “measurement issues” to “work design issues”. The field studies demonstrate that effective management of psychosocial risks is feasible in all company contexts. Psychosocial risks are not only addressed in the context of OSH but also in the context of human resource management, leadership and professional practice. To effectively improve safety and health at work, the management of psychosocial risks must be systematically addressed and supported in all of these contexts.



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