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Psychological hazards

Hazard Knowledge

The effects of psychological hazards can be as debilitating as a physical injury. Excessive pressure caused by psychological hazards can cause stress, which harms the ability to think, communicate and operate effectively.

Stress occurs when an individual sees a difference between the demands placed on them and their ability to cope. Working under high demands in a challenging environment may also lead to both physical and mental fatigue. Psychological hazards can affect incident command and impair the functioning of a commander, individual or team. For example, anxieties and stressors take up part of a person's mental processing capacity and can distract attention from the situation. This can reduce the available capacity for focusing on and understanding information. If important information is neglected or not processed properly it may lead to an inaccurate mental picture of the situation. Equally the effects of exposure to psychological hazards can be experienced long-term, after the incident or event, and may not be fully appreciated or experienced if not identified at the earliest stage.

The effect of experiencing and being exposed to psychological hazards can differ for individuals and teams. As each incident is different, the exact pressures and demands are difficult to predict.

Psychological hazards may be present at any operational incident and most hazards can be identified and appropriate control measures adopted. However, there are subconscious and external underlying reasons, such as previous exposure or history, that mean the reactions or well-being of an individual may differ, or be affected in a variety of ways and at many levels.

For further information, refer to Incident command: Ineffective command of an incident