The Difference Between Psycho-Social Health and Social-Psychology of Risk

Whenever we have courses and programs there is some confusion about Psycho-Social and Social-Psycho risk. They are NOT the same and certainly focus on very different things.

With all the recent interest in Psycho-Social risk it is worth explaining the distinction. The distinction is really about starting points.

Psycho-Social risk is about placing Psychology first in understanding the person and workplace and its implications for social meaning. Social-Psycho risk places the priority on social realities and then Psychological outcomes. We know this focus in SPoR as Socialitie.

The differences are explained in Figure 1. Psycho-Social Risk and Figure 2. Social-Psycho Risk

Figure 1. Psycho-Social Risk


Figure 2. Social-Psycho Risk


You can see between both sets of tables hold radical difference in focus, although there are relationships between both disciplines.

In the history of the risk and safety industry, there has been little focus on either of these disciplines. Indeed, most of the focus on Psychosocial risk (not hazards) has traditionally been tackled by HR, Organisational Leadership and Employment Law, NOT Safety. In the history of the safety industry, there has been simply no appetite globally for Socio-Psycho Risk. SPoR has been about for 20 years and more and there is simply no interest in it.

The amusing and recent focus by the safety industry on Psychosocial risk (through Standards and Codes of Practice) exposes the industry to the fact that it has no capability, curriculum, philosophy, history or skills to tackle the challenges it now faces. Indeed, Safety as the zero industry is one of the main contributors to toxicity in the workplace. Similarly, it is also the Regulators that similarly contribute to workplace toxicity. Just go to any construction site and watch what happens when you tell the workers Workcover is coming on site.

Wherever there is Zero there is brutalism and the Regulators also support this ideology (

The culture of safety (yes there is one), is understood by many in the workplace as an embuggerance, unprofessional, unethical and bloody-minded. This is evidenced by a special kind of brutalism that must hold a Spanish Inquisition into any injury, followed by increased policing, interrogation in seeking blame, followed by a multiplication of paperwork and bureaucratical gymnastics complete with special ‘word salad’ spin, so that nothing changes. Safety even gives awards for ‘’more of the same branded as ‘thought leadership’.

So, if you look at all the resources being thrown currently at Psychosocial Safety its: more paperwork, more work and less time to do what matters most (listening, conversations, walk arounds and people-centred attention).

Zero has been the global mantra for Safety for 6 years but has a much longer history spanning 35 years. There can be no vision for safety emerging from zero vision.

Safety is the zero industry that rejects fallibility, admires perfection and a host of mental-health disorders it seeks to normalise and declare as ‘good’. This zero view of the world is ably assisted by things like the Bradley Curve, Swiss-Cheese, Risk Matrices, Heinrich’s Pyramid etc. All of these concocted models dominate the culture of safety, its texts, curriculum, Body of Knowledge and cultural artefacts. Indeed, the nonsense James Reason concocted is often the starting point and focus of most safety texts (

Similarly, the philosophies of engineering, behaviourism and positivism weigh down the industry so much so, that it even calls things ‘different’ when they are not. Even when declaring ‘difference’, nothing has moved in worldview, the ideology is the same, methods the same, systems the same just the spin is better.

How is any of this going to move Safety to help in Psychosocial Safety?

The sector remains consumed by systems, and alternate systems to the systems it tries to discredit as ‘bad systems’. Even when Safety uses language such as ‘human factors’ it is just more spin for more focus on humans as a ‘factor’ in a system. The preoccupation with measurement, mechanics, metrics and controls is the same. Even in Psychosocial safety the language is still about ‘controlling hazards’. You still will find nowhere in Safety an articulation of an ethic of personhood, care or helping. The focus remains on quanta. The curriculum of safety hasn’t moved in 50 years.

This initiative into Psychosocial Safety puts the safety industry completely as odds with Psycho-Social Safety and Social-Psycho Risk. But true to form Safety has this solved with a 4 day course (

Indeed, Safety doesn’t even have a language with which to engage with Psycho-Social Safety and Social-Psycho Risk. Nor does it understand what it means to be Transdisciplinary. This is why it uses the nonsense language of ‘’hazards’ ( to try and draw what is beyond itself into its narrow mono-disciplinary world. There is nothing in the AIHS BoK that steps outside of the safety bubble.

The language of ‘hazards’ is anathema to either Psycho-Social and Socio-Psycho Risk ( ).

So, if you are interested in learning about Social-Psycho Risk the free Ethics Workshop is open for registrations, just email

The workshop is positive, constructive and practical, providing tools and methods to help in understanding the nature of personhood and the humanising of risk.

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