ISO 45003

ISO 45003 - Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace

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

Mental health

What Is ISO 45003 and What Does it Cover?

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.

Why Is Complying With ISO 45003 Beneficial?

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.

How Can An Organisation Manage and Identify Psychosocial Risks Within The Workplace?

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.

  • Internal issues refer to issues within the organisation, such as its management, working style, availability of resources and work location.
  • External issues refer to issues outside of the organisation’s control, such as demands from customers or clients or economic conditions that affect the availability or regularity of work.

When developing a strategy to support workers’ mental health, an organisation should also consider the needs and expectations of its workers. These may include:

  • Information and support.
  • Financial security.
  • Social interaction and support.
  • Recognition and reward for their efforts.
  • Personal development and growth.
  • Equal treatment and opportunities.

How Can An Organisation Evaluate The Existing Controls?

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
  • Secondary interventions
  • Tertiary interventions

Primary Interventions

Primary interventions are those control measures that prevent or minimise psychosocial risks. These include: 

  • Reorganising tasks or work processes so that they pose less of a psychosocial risk. This may involve more clearly defining job roles, allowing more flexibility for tasks to be completed, allowing more frequent breaks, or providing staff with practical support when they have an increased workload.
  • Supporting workers who are experiencing social issues at work, such as a lack of work-life balance, lack of supervision, or bullying and harassment.
  • Providing staff with appropriate work equipment to protect them from environmental hazards, such as low temperatures or loud noise.

Secondary Interventions

Secondary interventions are measures designed to help workers to deal with psychosocial risks, such as:

  • Raising awareness of psychosocial risks within the workplace.
  • Providing staff with effective training on how to manage their mental health and wellbeing.
  • Providing staff with regular access to medical professionals that they can discuss their psychosocial health with.

Tertiary Interventions

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:

  • Social withdrawal.
  • Reduced energy and motivation.
  • Increased absence from work.
  • Low performance.
  • Missing deadlines.
  • Reduced desire to work with others.
  • Committing more errors than usual.

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.

Monitoring and Evaluation Of the Control Measures

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: