Psychosocial influences on occupational health and safety decision making

Valerie J. O'Keeffe, Michelle R. Tuckey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Contemporary research increasingly highlights the interaction between psychosocial and physical hazards as synergistically contributing to work-related physical harm, particularly musculoskeletal disorders. In Australia, there is increasing recognition of the contribution of psychosocial factors to physical health outcomes in the occupational context, though psychosocial factors are often not explicitly considered in risk assessment processes related to physical safety. In other parts of the Asia Pacific (for example, Malaysia) legislation is emerging that addresses psychosocial risks at work, although legislative approaches are less well developed in regard to physical hazards, such as manual handling. This chapter discusses the role of psychosocial factors in contributing to physical safety outcomes. First, the contribution of psychosocial factors to the development of musculoskeletal disorders is discussed from the contemporary literature. Second, the absence of psychosocial factors in assessment processes is identified during the study of occupational health and safety communication and decision making. This phenomenon is illustrated in the case study of nurses making decisions about performing patient handling, where it was found that nurses aimed to balance patient care with protecting their own health and safety. In doing so, nurses achieved two outcomes important to their wellbeing. First, they made decisions which bolstered their sense of competency, self-efficacy and professional identity. Second, they made decisions which mostly aimed to protect their own safety while providing care. The second case study describes research in progress on migrant aged-care workers and the role of communication in undertaking manual handling of residents. Both case studies highlight the need to more fully incorporate psychosocial factors into occupational health and safety practice by considering the psychosocial environment in health and safety risk management. Building on this, health and safety practice must be more fully integrated into the way in which work is designed and organized, creating alignment between business and health and safety goals.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychosocial Factors at Work in the Asia Pacific
EditorsM Dollard, A Shimazu, R Bin Nordin, P Brough, M Tuckey
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9789401789752
ISBN (Print)9789401789745
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Physical safety outcomes
  • Psychosocial factors
  • Work-related physical harm


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