ISO 45003 – New Guidelines on Psychological Health and Safety at Work and Managing Psychosocial Risks 

ISO 45003 – New Guidelines on Psychological Health and Safety at Work and Managing Psychosocial Risks 

Research carried out by the European Union Organisation for Safety and Health at Work (ESENER EU-OSHA 2010, 2015, 2019),  found that only 20% of European Enterprises inform their employees on psychosocial risks or work related stress, let alone take action to tackle these issues.

Studies suggest that stress is a factor in between 50% and 60% of all lost working days. This represents a huge cost in terms of both human terms and economic cost. The number of people suffering from stress-related conditions caused or made worse by work is likely to increase due to the changing world of work which is making increased demands on workers

Work is currently underway on an ISO standard in the form of guidelines that addresses psychological health. ISO 45003 Occupational health and safety management – Psychological health and safety in the workplace – Guidelines, will provide guidance on the requirements of ISO 45001 with respect to managing psychological health and safety risks within an OH&S management system, based on the ISO 45001:2018 Occupational health and safety management system standard.

It is designed to enable Organisations prevent work related injury and ill health of their workers and other interested parties, and to improve well-being and engagement.

It is applicable to Organisations of all sizes and in all sectors for the development, implementation, maintenance, and continual improvement of safe and healthy workplaces.

ISO 45003 is developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 283, Occupational health and safety management, which is also responsible for the development of the ISO 45001 management system standard.

The draft international standard (DIS) is laid out in accordance with the Annex SL high level structure and is therefore aligned with the structure of ISO 45001.

The new standard includes a definition of what are known as psychosocial hazards. Hazards of a psychosocial nature that have the potential for psychological and physical harm, such as aspects of work tasks, work organisation, management, work environment and organisational conditions are referenced in the standard.

Interestingly the new standard includes well-being at work which is defined as an individual’s ability to work productively and creatively, to engage in strong positive relationships, fulfillment of personal and social goals, contribution to community, and a sense of purpose.

The new standard provides guidance on how organisations can manage workplace psychological risk by identifying the primary risk factors and determining what would improve the working environment.

ISO 45003 provides guidance on the following:

  • The identification of conditions, circumstances and workplace demands that have the potential to impair the psychological health and well-being of workers
  • How to identify the primary risk factors and assess them to determine what changes are required to improve the working environment
  • Control measures to manage work-related hazards and manage psychosocial risk within an OH&S management system.

Specifically, Clause 6.1 of the draft ISO 45003 standard indicates that organisations should identify hazards of a psychosocial nature including:

  • Aspects of how work is organized (e.g. job control, job demands, work pace, etc.)
  • Social factors at work (e.g. work-life balance, bullying, harassment, etc.)
  • Work environment, equipment and hazardous tasks

The draft standard provides plenty of more examples and detail of the above types of psychosocial hazards. It also gives guidance on how to identify and assess these psychosocial risks.  The standard also addresses support issues including a specific clause on confidentiality of personal information.

In terms of interventions and control measures to address the psychosocial risks the standard provides comprehensive practical guidance in Clause 8.1 Operational planning and control. It also provides guidance on recognizing the signs of exposure to psychosocial risks, emergency preparedness and response as well as rehabilitation and return to work.

ISO 45003 is designed to help organisations manage psychosocial risks as part of its OSO 45001 OHS management system in a holistic way. It is not a separate management system. The ISO 45003 draft international standard (DIS) is currently undergoing the public consultation stage of development and the final version of the standard is expected to be published in July 2021.