While stress has always been one of the leading causes of absence from work, serious demands have been placed on the mental health and safety of workers in recent years by events such as the COVID-19 pandemic which has, among other things, led to family bereavement and reduced income for many people. As a result of this, many workplaces are implementing strategies that offer its staff support with psychological health issues.
To help with this, the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) created a new standard in 2021 called ISO 45003, which concerns managing psychosocial and psychological health and safety at work. In this article, we will look at the main objectives of the ISO 45003 standard, and explore some essential guidance on promoting wellbeing within the workplace.
Everyone at work is at risk of experiencing a psychosocial hazard, which are those hazards that relate to ‘how work is organised, social factors at work and aspects of the work environment, equipment and hazardous tasks’.
ISO 45003 is the first global standard that brings attention to how a work environment and the nature of the job can impact employee mental health. It provides employers with practical guidance and a framework for identifying and managing the psychosocial risks that staff may experience in the workplace.
The ISO 45003 guidance is designed to be used together with ISO 45001, a standard that concerns the implementation of an occupational health and safety management system. However, it also contains a range of useful information and guidance that make it beneficial for companies that have yet to implement ISO 45001.
If you require more information on why health and wellbeing is essential and the impact it might have, refer to the Health, Well-being and Wellness Awareness course available on our website.
Failing to promote mental wellbeing can have a significant impact on the health of staff members, and lead to conditions such as cardiovascular disease, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders. It can also encourage poor health behaviours, such as substance misuse or unhealthy eating.
By complying with ISO 45003, and promoting positive mental wellbeing at work, employers will help their employees to avoid these conditions which, in turn, can promote job satisfaction and improve productivity.
Also, while complying with ISO 45003 is not a legal requirement, mental health problems have been classified as a health and safety risk by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and, as a result, employers are required to protect their employees from this risk by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA). By complying with ISO 45003, an employer can be sure that they are taking all reasonably practicable measures to look after their employees’ physical health and mental well-being.
To manage psychosocial risks within the workplace, an organisation should prepare a risk assessment and an effective action plan that considers the external and internal issues its employees may face, and explores how work can be designed to promote their wellbeing.
When developing a strategy to support workers’ mental health, an organisation should also consider the needs and expectations of its workers. These may include:
When creating a plan for managing psychosocial risks, an organisation should first assess which risks its employees face at work. When potential harm is identified, an organisation should establish which controls are needed to eliminate these risks, or decrease the danger that they pose.
These controls are split into three different types by the ISO 45003 standard:
Primary interventions are those control measures that prevent or minimise psychosocial risks. These include:
Secondary interventions are measures designed to help workers to deal with psychosocial risks, such as:
Tertiary interventions are designed to support those who have been exposed to psychosocial hazards and reduce the impact that these hazards have on them. To be effective, it is important that organisations understand the signs of poor psychosocial health, such as:
To support these employees, organisations should provide some form of rehabilitation programme and have a plan in place to identify and correct any issues with the workplace that caused a person to be exposed to a psychosocial hazard.
Once the appropriate measures have been put in place, it is important to monitor and review them when necessary. For example, a significant workplace change may present additional psychosocial hazards that need to be managed.
Regularly monitoring and reviewing these control measures can help to ensure that they remain effective at preventing and managing psychosocial risks.
At Commodious, we offer two training courses on health, well-being and wellness that provide an overview of health and wellbeing, and provide guidance on how to manage them within a workplace: