Poor support means not getting enough support from supervisors or other workers, or not having the resources needed to do the job well.
It is more than having to wait for someone to get out of a meeting to answer a non-urgent question. Poor support becomes a hazard when it is severe (e.g. very little support), prolonged (e.g. long term) or frequent (e.g. happens often).
Poor support may include:
- not having the things needed to do the work well, safely or on time (e.g. limited tools or faulty IT systems)
- not getting necessary information (e.g. information is unclear or not passed on in time)
- not enough supervisor support (e.g. supervisors aren’t available to help, provide unclear guidance, take a long time to make decisions or are unempathetic)
- not being able to easily get help (e.g. workers can’t leave their stations or are physically separated from others)
- a workplace culture that discourages support (e.g. highly competitive or critical workplaces), or
- inadequate co-worker support (e.g. workers are too busy to help each other).
Identifying and assessing the risks of poor support
You must identify if psychosocial hazards, including poor support, are present in your workplace.
Consult workers. Workers may talk about hazards in different ways. For example, they may say they feel stressed, unsupported or like they’re competing with others. They may raise concerns about their ability to do their jobs well or on time.
- Use surveys and tools. Businesses with more than 20 workers may find the People at Work psychosocial risk assessment tool useful.
- Observe work and behaviours. For example, workers waiting for others or struggling with tasks, or work often needing to be redone can be caused by poor support.
- Review available information. For example, records of overtime, time off, injuries, incidents or workers’ compensation.
- Have a way for workers to report and encourage reporting. Treating workers’ concerns seriously and respectfully will help encourage reporting.
- Identify other hazards present and consider them together. Hazards can interact and combine to create new, changed or higher risks. For example, poor support may create a higher risk in workplaces where workers often need help to do tasks safely.
- Consider how long, how often and how severely workers are exposed to hazards. The longer, more often and worse the poor support the higher the risk that workers may be harmed.
Controlling poor support
You must eliminate psychosocial risks, or if that is not reasonably practicable, minimise them so far as is reasonably practicable. For example:
- Give workers the things they need to do their jobs well and safely (e.g. they have the right tools, equipment, systems and resources).
- Have good information sharing systems so workers can quickly access any necessary information (e.g. keep databases up to date).
- Set up the workplace so it is easy to get help from others (e.g. seat teams together and have places where workers can have private discussions).
- Ensure supervisors have the skills and time to manage workers (e.g. to answer questions, help with challenging tasks and develop workers’ skills).
- Build a workplace culture that values cooperation (e.g. have team goals and reward workers who help others).
- Hold regular team meetings to discuss challenges, potential solutions and any support needs (e.g. updating old equipment or debriefs after emotionally challenging tasks).
- Train workers to ensure they know how to do their jobs and use any relevant tools, equipment, systems, policies and processes.
When choosing control measures you must consider all the hazards present and how they may interact and combine. For information on other hazards see psychosocial hazards.
Reviewing control measures
You must review control measures to check they are working as planned. If a control measure is not increasing support or is creating new risks, you must make changes.
For more information on meeting your WHS duties see our mental health page.