Psychosocial Risks

Psychosocial Risks

Understanding and preventing PSR


  • To raise awareness of Psychosocial Risks in order to better identify them: stress, exhaustion or Burn Out, aggressiveness, moral harassment
  • To provide keys to prevent them.


Neither a fashionable phenomenon, nor the product of problems arising solely from the individual sphere, the rise of psycho-social risks corresponds to a lasting transformation of work, due to both :

  • Developments towards more mentally demanding work organisations,
  • Incessant and very rapid changes in strategy
  • The weakening of work collectives
  • And societal transformations


1. STRESS: The major psychosocial risk

"Stress occurs when there is an imbalance between a person's perception of the constraints imposed by his or her environment and his or her own resources for dealing with them.” (Definition of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work).

It is linked to 2 factors :

  • the stressor: external factor linked to the environment,
  • Stressability: an internal factor related to individual receptivity to stressors.

Stress = Stressors x Stressability.

  • Stress is an indicator of dysfunction of the brain, an error in reasoning, in behaviour, and that there are other ways to approach the situation considered hostile. Stress can be one-time or chronic. When it becomes chronic, the risk of burnout is high.
  • The symptom is an indicator of dysfunction of the body.


Burn Out a set of reactions following situations of chronic occupational stress in which the commitment dimension is predominant.

It is characterised by 3 criteria that are essential for making the diagnosis:

  • Burnout: feeling of being drained of emotional resources. Total lack of energy for work. Lack of motivation.
  • Disengagement (depersonalisation) : dehumanisation of the relationship with others. Insensitivity to the surrounding world. Negative view of others and of work (cynicism)
  • Personal frustration: Feeling of not reaching one's objectives, not responding to the expectations of those around one. Feeling of incompetence, of inadequacy. Self-esteem and self-confidence are affected.


It is important to distinguish between violence outside the company (users, clients) and internal violence (colleagues, hierarchy). We distinguish 3 levels of aggression :

  • Incivility, which is the absence of respect for others and is manifested by relatively benign behaviour.
  • verbal or physical aggression: tension, bullying, humiliation, slander, insults, conflicts
  • violent acts: sexual assaults, acts of vandalism, extortion, theft, homicide.

Some sectors of activity are more affected than others:

  • service activities that increase contact.
  • activities in which people handle valuable objects (banking, jewelry, etc.).

As far as "internal violence" is concerned

  • the perpetrator is generally a person who is well integrated in the company
  • the victim is not necessarily a person considered to be fragile (woman, young person).


Definition : "Intention for a person or a group of persons to harm one or more other persons" (Heinz Leymann, Mobel, 2001).

It can take different forms :

  • refusal of all communication.
  • absence of instructions or contradictory instructions.
  • work deprivation or work overload.
  • Meaningless tasks or assignments that are beyond one's competence, being "put on the back burner", degrading working conditions, incessant criticism, repeated sarcasm.
  • Bullying, humiliation, slander, insults, threats.

Violence, aggression and moral harassment lead to a deterioration in working conditions which can affect not only the dignity, health and professional future of the person, but also the balance of their family.

They are not without behavioural consequences for the person: chronic stress with somatic manifestations (seen previously), but also psychological (behaviors or attitudes deleterious to oneself, impulsivity, anxiety, suicide risk).


What are the ways to reduce, control and detect PSR?

There are no ready-made solutions. Solutions must be found for each company. The collective prevention approach focused on the work and its organisation is to be favoured.

1. Regulatory aspects: your duties as a manager


The employer has a general safety obligation (Article L.4121-1 of the French Labor Code), and must take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and protect the physical and mental health of employees.

He is bound by obligations of means and results (to ensure the safety and protect the physical and mental health of employees).

"In order to fulfil this obligation, the employer is based on the principles of collective prevention, including (Article L.4121-2 of the French Labor Code):

  • Combating risks at the source and adapting work to people:
  • Adapted workstations,
  • Choice of work and production methods to limit monotonous and rhythmic work,
  • Technical support for operators to carry out their activities,
  • Adaptation of workloads.
  • Plan prevention by integrating technology, organisation and working conditions, social relations and the influence of environmental factors (moral and sexual harassment).

To implement the prevention strategy, the employer relies on the occupational health service.


Article L4122-1 of the French Labor Code (formerly L230-3) also establishes the employee's obligation to provide information - a law that was modified on January 3, 2003 regarding the burden of proof. It is therefore up to the plaintiff employee to prove the factual elements suggesting the existence of discrimination (Sic. Juritravail 2006 - info pratique en droit du travail).

In the event of a dispute relating to the application of articles L.122-46 and L 122-49, as soon as the employee concerned establishes facts which allow the presumption of the existence of harassment, it is up to the defendant, in the light of these elements, to prove that these actions do not constitute such harassment and that his decision is justified by objective elements unrelated to any harassment.

2. Collective prevention of PSR:

Common points of prevention methodologies :

  • commitment of the management to carry out a complete approach (with action plan). - prior existence of an occupational health and safety culture in the company - Involvement of staff representatives.
  • participation of employees, management and regular information.
  • setting up a working group (dedicated project).

3. Assessment of psychosocial risks

  • 1st step: prepare the approach: involve the actors, collect data and indicators of PSR. If complex or serious, call upon external public prevention organisations, occupational health services, etc.
  • 2nd step: assessment of PSR factors.
  • 3rd step: action plan (improvement actions, prioritise and plan the actions, define the means necessary to carry out the plan).
  • 4th step: implementation of the action plan.
  • 5th step: re-evaluation of PSR and readjustment of the action plan.

4. Other approaches:

  • developing individual stress management: strengthening employees' resistance through relaxation techniques in the workplace.
  • training in conflict management.
  • taking charge of suffering employees.


Some questions concerning the regulatory aspect, control and detection of RPS:

  • How do you combat RPS at the source ?
    • adapted workstations?
    • choice of work and production methods to limit monotonous and rhythmic work,
    • technical support for operators to carry out their activities,
    • adaptation of workloads.
  • How do you plan prevention? (Technical, organisation and working conditions, social relations and the influence of environmental factors (moral and sexual harassment).
  • How do you see your role in this area?