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ISO 45003 Managing Psychosocial Risks – An Overview

By Libby Morley, Mindshift Consultancy

Published 15 October 2021

The recently published new global standard for psychological health and safety in the workplace aims to provide clear guidance to employers on managing mental health at work. Whilst it is a voluntary standard to implement it will help organisations to ensure that they are complying with legislation. This new standard “is intended to be used together with ISO 45001, which contains requirements and guidance on planning, implementing, reviewing, evaluating, and improving an OH&S management system (and) highlights that the organization is responsible for the OH&S of workers and others who can be affected by its activities. This responsibility includes promoting and protecting their physical and psychological health”.

There are ten sections within the standard, the first three of which are shorter, give context and define the scope, references, terms and definitions found within the standard. The statement in section 3.2 stands out as it states that “wellbeing at work can also contribute to the quality of life outside of work”. This is important as it confirms the importance of good work as a health outcome that if not well managed can have a personal and societal cost.

Sections four and five focuses on pre-planning and offers a detailed checklist to consider in order to gain a thorough understanding of the organisation prior to section six, the planning stage. The stand-out in section 5 refers to it being essential that there is worker “consultation and participation” in order to develop, plan, implement, maintain, evaluate and continually improve by leading to an “increase (in) a worker’s motivation and commitment to contribute to psychologically healthy and safe workplaces”.

Section six, planning, is where things start to get meaty regarding the identification of potential psychosocial hazards and has familiar overlaps with the HSE Management Standards for Stress (see tables1-3 in the standard). Section seven covers support and lists competency, awareness, communication, documentation and confidentiality as resources to achieve the objectives of the standard.

Section eight guides on operational planning and control and covers risk assessment and control measures. It includes guidance on eliminating hazards, reducing OH&S risks and promoting well-being at work and usefully states signs/symptoms that a worker has been exposed to psychosocial risk. This section continues to be far-reaching as it also guides organisations to include procurement, contracting and outsourcing, and emergency preparedness and response and rehabilitation and return to work.

The ninth section, as would be expected following the planning stage, covers evaluating performance via both quantitative and qualitative means plus inclusion of senior management to indicate continued buy-in from the top. It clearly states within this section that “appropriate documented information” should be retained as evidence.

The final section refers to continuous improvement and corrective actions in the case of and incident non-conformance. It is pleasing to note that the standard states that organisations should, in relation to incident or non-compliance “encourage and support reporting to reduce fear of reprisals”.

A full copy of the standard can found at ISO 45003:2021(en), Occupational health and safety management — Psychological health and safety at work — Guidelines for managing psychosocial risks and at a cost of £118.00 can be downloaded in PDF format.

A useful overview via e-learning can also be accessed for free at ISO 45003:2021 Psychological health and safety at work FREE resources training pdf

Libby is iOH Director of Mental Health and Wellbeing, Owner of Mindshift Consultancy


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