A follow-up evaluation of the health, wellbeing and safety outcomes of implemented psychosocial safety interventions for disability support workers

Julia Harries, Neil Kirby, Jerry Ford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background: Disability support workers (DSWs) are an occupational group identified as at high risk of exposure to psychosocial work hazards. This research reports on follow-up findings from action research undertaken over three separate studies over a 5-year period to address DSW psychosocial work safety. The first study showed DSWs experienced poorer health and safety outcomes than norm groups (Study 1, n = 99). Stakeholder feedback informed work safety recommendations, seven of which were translated into practice and evaluated (Study 2, n = 129). Evaluation findings showed improved health and safety trends compared to Study 1. Objective: This third study aimed to investigate whether Study 2 gains were maintained after 18 months. Method: A follow-up evaluation (Study 3, n = 138) using the same survey (measuring burnout, physical and mental health, bullying and/or harassment, and safety climate) examined changes over time (analysis of variance) and relative to instrument norms (t tests and chi-square test). Results: Follow-up findings showed that the health and safety outcomes continued improving after 18 months. While bullying levels remained higher than the norms, experienced and witnessed bullying progressively decreased, with witnessed bullying significantly lower than Study 1. Findings showed significant improvements across the three studies in personal and work-related burnout, mental and physical health, and safety climate means. Furthermore, favourable safety climate findings were supported by improved incident and workers' compensation statistics for the organisation. Conclusion: While causation cannot be established (e.g., due to the absence of control groups), numerous outcome improvements were observed, with findings supporting the use of a safety climate measure to assess and monitor work safety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-533
Number of pages15
JournalAustralian Psychologist
Volume55
Issue number5
Early online date25 Dec 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

Keywords

  • bullying
  • burnout
  • organisational change
  • organisational psychology
  • psychosocial safety
  • safetyclimate

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