Psychosocial Risk Management in a European Comparison

2017 – The project „psychosocial risk management in the EU. Context, strategies and implementation at establishment level – a comparative European study“ (10/2013 – 3/2016) was funded by the Hans Boeckler Foundation and carried out by the BAuA (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin).  


The objective of this study was to use a qualitative, explorative research approach to acquire knowledge of basic conditions, constellations of players and processes of risk management under different conditions for actions. In this way, a deeper understanding of this process was to be acquired than was permitted up to now by studies on a quantitative level.  

Ten casestudies

For this purpose, the BAuA carried out ten establishment case studies (in hospitals, in the production sector and in hotels) on the implementation of psychosocial risk management in four European countries (Sweden, Denmark, United Kingdom, Spain). The establishment-based interviews were supplemented by interviews with inter-company experts and document analyses which provided relevant information on the respective national context.  


It became apparent that in the Scandinavian countries, the framework conditions for the successful implementation of psychosocial risk management are more favourable than in the UK and in Spain. There were commonalities across countries in terms of consensual recommendations to structure the process of risk management, in terms of the existing variety of instruments and with regard to the theoretical foundation of the instruments that are used. At the same time, there were differences in terms of occupational safety and health cultures (e.g. regarding the issue of either combining or separating psychosocial and „traditional“ risk factors in risk management), in terms of participation culture and regarding the role of national players.  

General conclusions

Despite all the differences between the respective national occupational safety and health cultures in the four countries that were investigated, it is possible to draw general conclusions, which are also relevant to occupational safety and health practice in other countries. This relates in particular to the following aspects:

• Consensus building among occupational health and safety players on approaches and methods with regard to risk management contributes to certainty in action and will reduce potential conflicts;

• In company practice, the focus should be on the process of risk management, i.e. the operational activities from the initiation to the implementation of measures;

• Strong participation rights of the employee representation as well as an established participation culture will facilitate the implementation of risk management;

• Activating and using the practical „local“ knowledge (knowledge founded on experience), e.g. by specific surveys of workers, is an important success factor. At the same time, the selective use of external expertise may be helpful, particularly in the initial phase of risk management.   


Janetzke, H.;  Ertel, M. ‘Psychosocial Risk Management in a European Comparison’ (2017) Dortmund/Berlin/Dresden, BAuA: Report, Research F 2339

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