It is also important to highlight the subjective nature of psychosocial risks that fall within the perception specific to each individual.
However, this does not prevent the assessment, nor a measurement with appropriate tools, in order to take steps for prevention, and to follow the evolution of the psychosocial risks over time.
There are 3 levels of prevention of psychosocial risks: primary prevention, secondary prevention and tertiary prevention.
Primary prevention: "to prevent" the risks by acting early and directly on the causes.
It is about prevention in the proper sense of the term since it takes place at the source, to remove or reduce the risk factors. In terms of psychosocial risks, primary prevention deals with organization of the work, management and managerial styles, companies’ operating models, and work conditions. This type of prevention is the one to be privileged as much as possible in companies’ action plans.
Secondary prevention: "to manage" the risks that cannot be removed.
This prevention is about reducing infringements on the health of employees by teaching them to manage stressful situations, and to manage their own stress. As we cannot eliminate all risks, we train the employees in order to limit the impacts on their health.
An example of secondary prevention is: training employees that are in contact with the public on how to manage and handle aggressive behavior. The risk of verbal abuse is increasing and it is important to minimize the negative effects on employees by teaching them how to manage these situations. This does not rule out of course analyzing the sources of dissatisfaction of customers who are at the origin of the verbal assaults in order to act at the primary prevention level.
Tertiary prevention: “to deal with", act in a curative perspective when the damage has already taken place.
Tertiary prevention consists of assisting employees that are in difficulty, it has a curative dimension, and we repair the damages. For example, it could be the implementation of a psychological support unit following a violent work place attack, or the suicide of an employee.