Psychosocial hazards are the greatest occupational threat for teachers, says ASTI President

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Psychosocial hazards are the greatest occupational threat facing teachers, ASTI President Ed Byrne said today: 

“Psychosocial hazards are by far the greatest threat facing teachers during their working lives. Despite the fact that it is well established that teaching is one of the most stressful and psychologically demanding professions, psychosocial hazards are largely ignored”.

Speaking at the launch of the ASTI’s information leaflet Teacher Welfare: Rights and Responsibilities, Mr Byrne said teachers are more exposed to psychosocial hazards for a number of reasons, including:

  • The highly relational nature of teaching
  • The emotional demands placed on teachers dealing with the diverse needs of large numbers of young people, their parents and guardians.
  • The increased bureaucratisation of teaching.
  • The lack of professional mobility in teaching. 

Teacher Welfare: Rights and Responsibilities
 aims to create greater awareness amongst teachers, school leaders/ managers and others working in education of the role of the employer in identifying and addressing psychosocial hazards. 

“Some psychosocial factors affect all teachers and schools, others can be unique to, or more prominent in, a particular school. Left unaddressed these hazards can lead to anything from low morale to sleeping problems and absenteeism to major illnesses such as depression and cardiovascular disease,” said the ASTI President. “These symptoms are not signs of weakness, rather they are the result of unhealthy work systems. The solution lies not with the individual teacher, but at system level.” 

Recent data from the Department of Education and Skills shows that psychiatric illness is the number one reason why teachers retire early on ill health grounds. 

“Teacher wellbeing is inextricably linked to the quality of teaching and learning in our schools. Being well physically and psychologically, becoming and remaining happy, confident, positive and resilient – these are the foundations of good teaching and learning. Teachers need to be supported so that they can best support their students.”

The ASTI information leaflet states that employers are legally obliged to produce a safety statement. This safety statement should incorporate the following: 

  • identifying psycho-social hazards
  • assessing psycho-social risk for activities in school and off campus
  • outlining protective and preventative measures and the resources required
  • implementing measures in keeping with the general principles of prevention outlined in the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act
  • ensuring there is a workplace emergency plan/critical incident policy
  • ensuring the safety statement is reviewed at least annually
  • ensuring the safety statement is easily accessible. 


The launch was also addressed by Patricia Murray, Organisational Psychologist with the Health and Safety Authority who stated that while much has been written about mental health issues and the workplace, the implementation of good practice is what is needed to support employee welfare.




Click here for Teacher Welfare: Rights and Responsibilities