Deep Care logo white
Deep Care Logo

Mental health risk assessment (MHP) - Everything you need to know

July 4, 2024
Young woman completes the psychological risk assessment

What is a risk assessment of mental stress?

A risk assessment of mental stress, or mental health risk assessment for short, is a systematic and legally defined process that aims to identify and evaluate mental stress at work and take appropriate measures to eliminate or reduce it. 

The aim is to protect the mental health and well-being of employees by minimising mental stress factors and stress-related risks. Mental stress can come from various sources, such as work pressure, working hours, unclear work tasks, high work intensity, inadequate work equipment, lack of social support or poor working environments.

In this article, we provide you with a detailed guide to help you carry out the GB Psych as stress-free, holistic and simple as possible.

Who is authorised to carry out a psychological risk assessment?

A risk assessment of mental stress can be carried out by trained internal employees such as occupational health and safety officers or external occupational health and safety specialists. It often makes sense to involve a company doctor and a psychologist to ensure a well-founded assessment.

No specific training is required by law in order to carry out a GB-Psych. Nevertheless, it is important that the person carrying out the assessment has the necessary expertise and skills to correctly recognise and assess mental stress.

The following qualifications and knowledge are helpful:

  1. Knowledge of occupational health and safety: Basic understanding of the legal requirements and regulations in the area of occupational health and safety.
  2. Experience in psychology or industrial psychology: Understanding of psychological stress factors and their effects on employees.
  3. Experience in carrying out risk assessments: Practical experience in the systematic recording and assessment of psychological risks in the workplace.
  4. Training and further education: Participation in specific training or further training on the risk assessment of mental stress is recommended.

The GB-Psych is often carried out by an interdisciplinary team consisting of occupational safety specialists, company doctors, psychologists and other experts. Collaboration with external consultants or specialised service providers can also be useful in order to ensure the necessary expertise and carry out a well-founded assessment. This can also guarantee absolute anonymity.

Team works on the GB Psych

The role of the employers' liability insurance association

The employers' liability insurance association plays a central role in the GB-Psych. It offers companies advice, guidelines and practical tools for recording, evaluating and implementing the risk assessment. They also organise training and further education courses to qualify supervisors and safety officers.

They develop prevention programmes, monitor compliance with legal regulations and carry out inspections. Employers' liability insurance associations also conduct research into mental health in the workplace and sometimes offer financial support for appropriate measures.

Health management and GB-Psych

OHM also plays an important role. It supports the identification and assessment of psychological risks in the workplace and develops measures to improve the well-being of employees. The OHM promotes health through preventive programmes, training and workshops. It also monitors the implementation and effectiveness of measures to ensure that mental stress is reduced in the long term. Through these activities, the OHM makes a significant contribution to creating a healthy working environment and fulfilling the requirements of the GB-Psych.

Legal guidelines on the risk assessment of mental stress

Mental stress has been explicitly integrated into the Occupational Health and Safety Act as a potential source of danger since 2013. No new process was introduced, but the existing risk assessment process was supplemented by the additional risk factor of mental health. In Germany, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (ArbSchG) stipulates that employers are obliged to carry out a risk assessment in order to ensure the health and safety of their workforce. This also includes mental stress in the workplace. The risk assessment must be updated regularly, especially if working conditions change or new findings on hazards become available. Failure to do so can result in severe penalties for employers.

Employee notes the results of the risk assessment of mental stress

How does the implementation of a GB-Psych work?

A risk assessment of mental stress is carried out in several steps, which are approached systematically and methodically.

First, the relevant activities, occupational groups and areas are identified according to the organisational structure. The potential psychological hazards are then determined and assessed to determine whether there is a need for action. Measures to eliminate or reduce the risks are then defined and implemented. Finally, the effectiveness of the measures is checked and the risk assessment is continuously updated and documented. The 7 process steps are explained in more detail in the next section.

Preparation of the GB Psych

Before you start, determine who within the company is responsible for the risk assessment of mental stress and set a schedule. Practical implementation requires the cooperation of several stakeholders, including management, the HR department, occupational physicians, company doctors, the works council, occupational safety specialists and those responsible for occupational health management. A working group usually decides on the form of the employee information and survey as well as the organisation of the improvement measures.

A 7-step process and a guide to implementation

Step 1: Definition of activities/areas: The first step is to determine the specific activities and work areas that are to be subjected to a risk assessment. The law requires that the different activities of employees are taken into account in the psychological risk assessment. For example, the stress levels for employees in production are different from those for a sales manager or an accountant. However, it is permissible to group employees with similar working conditions - either by work and organisational area or by their occupational group. The formation of these groups must be comprehensible and understandable for supervisory bodies. In addition, the reasons must be clearly explained in the documentation.

Step 2: Determination of the hazards: In this step, the potential psychological risks at work are identified. This can be done by means of an employee survey using questionnaires, observations, moderated analysis workshops or analyses of accident and illness data. Important topics to be identified as part of the risk assessment include work pressure, room for manoeuvre, emotional demands, social relationships, working environment and employees' mental health.

Step 3: Assessment of the hazards to determine whether there is a need for action: Next, the identified hazards are assessed to determine whether they pose a risk to the mental health of employees and whether measures are required. The severity and frequency of the stresses are taken into account here. The aim is to identify unfavourable working practices

Step 4: Specification of measures to eliminate the identified hazards: Based on the assessment, specific measures are defined to eliminate or reduce the psychological risks. This may include organisational changes, training, improved communication structures, new occupational health and safety measures, development measures for managers or adjustments to the working environment.

Step 5: Specification of who is responsible for implementing the measures and by when: The fifth step clearly defines who is responsible for implementing the measures and by when they must be completed. Responsibilities and deadlines are documented to facilitate tracking.

Step 6: Effectiveness monitoring and updating of the risk assessment: Risk assessment is a continuous process. It must be regularly reviewed and updated as necessary, particularly in the event of changes to working conditions or new findings about hazards. The law therefore requires companies to monitor whether the mental stress situation has changed following the implementation of measures. For example, if you have taken measures to reduce work interruptions (e.g. through education and information, closing office doors, etc.), you should check after a reasonable period of time whether the number of interruptions has actually decreased. This can be done, for example, through verbal employee surveys or a short written survey.

Step 7: Documentation All steps of the risk assessment, including the measures and their effectiveness checks, must be carefully documented. This not only serves to provide evidence, but also to continuously improve occupational health and safety in the company.

Through careful and systematic implementation, employers can protect and promote the mental health of their employees in the long term and prevent mental illness.

Two employees plan measures for mental health

Conclusion: Preventing mental stress in the workplace is more important today than ever before

The occupational health and safety assessment is crucial for protecting the mental health of employees and complying with legal regulations. The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires companies to carry out this assessment in order to systematically identify and minimise potential mental health risks in the workplace. If these requirements are ignored, there is a risk of legal consequences and fines.

In addition to the legal requirements, HR psychology is essential for the well-being and productivity of employees. Without careful assessment and appropriate measures, mental illnesses such as burnout or depression can increase. This not only leads to an increase in absenteeism and sickness costs, but also to a reduction in work performance and motivation. It is important that companies recognise that physical health is important.

The implementation of the GB-Psych is therefore not only a legal obligation for the work organisation, but also an investment in the health and satisfaction of employees. A systematic approach and the involvement of all relevant stakeholders, such as occupational health management, are crucial to achieving sustainable improvements and creating a healthy working environment.

Stay informed ...

DeepDive BGM

Receive our latest monthly blogs and carefully curated articles on workplace prevention.

Stay up to date