New guidance on workplace exposure to sensitive content

New guidance on workplace exposure to sensitive content

New guidance for organisations whose employees are exposed to sensitive content in the course of their work, such as images of graphic violence or sexual abuse, has been published by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and the State Claims Agency (SCA).

The new document has been drawn up in response to the growing number of people employed in Ireland in roles where they are exposed to sensitive content, for instance while moderating social media platforms or working for the State.

The guidance reminds employers that they have a duty under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 to manage and conduct work activities to ensure the health and safety of employees, which includes their mental health. It outlines employers’ duty to carry out hazard identification and risk assessment for all known hazards including exposure to graphic material.

Adrienne Duff, assistant chief executive at the HSA, said: “We understand that the exact individual effects of exposure to sensitive content within a work setting are not easily foreseeable, and differ qualitatively for each employee.

“We urge employers, and those who control workplaces, to use this guidance to assist in identifying the pertinent specific hazards, such as sensitive content involves and assess the risk presented by these hazards.”

She added: “We welcome this opportunity to work with the State Claims Agency and other consultative partners on this important guidance which will be beneficial to those employers and duty holders working in areas where sensitive content is a hazard to their employees.”

Patricia Murray, senior work and organisational psychologist at the HSA, said: “According to relevant research in organisational psychological literature, exposure to sensitive content can significantly impair the psychological health, safety and wellbeing of those exposed.

“This document sets out practical risk management guidance to help organisations in the management of this risk, to promote employee safety and health.

“Managing this issue also helps to mitigate incidents and absences, ill-health and related claims arising in the future. A template for risk assessment is available within the guidance and should be carried out — as always — in consultation with employees.”

Ciarán Breen, director at the SCA, said: “We have worked closely with the Health and Safety Authority in developing this important risk assessment guidance on sensitive content.

“Certain categories of employees in State authorities can be exposed to sensitive content as part of their employment and this can have an impact on their psychological health and wellbeing. This guidance will be a useful resource for our State authorities in helping to mitigate the risk, reducing incidents and claims, and ultimately making workplaces safer.”

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