Work-related stress – poor environmental conditions

This guidance can help employers manage environmental conditions that might increase employees' risk of work-related stress.


Psychosocial hazards

Psychosocial hazards are factors in the design or management of work that increase the risk of work-related stress and can lead to psychological or physical harm. Examples of psychosocial hazards might include poor supervisor support or high job demands.

Employees are likely to be exposed to a combination of psychosocial hazards. Some hazards might always be present at work, while others only occasionally. There is a greater risk of work-related stress when psychosocial hazards combine and act together, so employers should not consider hazards in isolation.

Psychosocial hazards do not necessarily reveal the causes of work-related stress. Causes are likely to be specific to the employee, work or workplace. Senior management should identify which psychosocial hazards negatively affect employees' health and well-being and take appropriate action to control the impact of those hazards.

Environmental conditions

Environmental conditions are those external factors in the environment that affect employee comfort and performance at work. Noise and dust might be factors in the workplace or employees might use toxic chemicals. These factors can cause work-related stress and, combined with psychosocial hazards, can heighten overall work-related stress.

Types of environmental stressors include:

  • noise
  • thermal comfort
  • lighting
  • vibration
  • air quality
  • available workspace

Employers must provide and maintain safe systems of work and must eliminate, so far as reasonably practicable, risks to health and safety in the workplace. Fulfilling their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) can help employers control environmental factors that cause work-related stress.

Addressing environmental risks

Employers should identify hazards and risk control measures as part of an overall risk management program, in accordance with the hierarchy of control.

Consultation with employees and HSRs is essential to identifying and understanding the impact of environmental conditions on employees and identifying risk controls.

Some questions employers can ask their employees and HSRs include:

  • What environmental conditions are causing discomfort or disruption?
  • Is the workplace quiet or too loud?
  • Is the room temperature comfortable?
  • Is it too bright or dark?
  • Is the workspace comfortable and appropriate for the work?
  • Is the work station comfortable and appropriate for the work?
  • Is there enough space for performing work?
  • Is there any aspect of the work or working environment causing concern or distress?

Identifying hazards and controlling risks

WorkSafe has a range of information about health and safety topics that are important to your workplace and can help identify hazards and control risks that can lead to work-related stress.

Some of the most relevant resources on the WorkSafe website include:

Health and safety topics

Information specific to your industry

Work-related stress and your legal duties

The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) requires employers to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable. This responsibility includes providing and maintaining safe systems of work and an obligation to consult with employees and HSRs on matters that directly affect or are likely to affect their health or safety, including hazards and risks associated with work-related stress.

Employees also have duties under the OHS Act to take reasonable care for their own health and safety, the health and safety of people in the workplace and to co-operate with their employer.

More about your legal obligations

Related pages

This information is from 'Preventing and managing work-related stress: A guide for employers'. The complete guide is available in two formats.

Website version PDF guide