The IS0 45003 is the first global standard on psychological health, safety and wellbeing at work. It is a set of guidelines that supplements the current standard for broader occupational health and safety management, the ISO 45001, released in 2018. The aim is to identify psychosocial risks to help prevent work-related injury and mental ill health, with a focus on the wellbeing of the workforce.
The standard defines psychosocial risk as relating to “how work is organised, social factors at work and aspects of the work environment, equipment and hazardous tasks”. With the pandemic and current economic climate forcing many businesses to review working practices, integrating the ISO 45003 into transformation plans or existing processes could reduce the economic cost of employee absenteeism and recruitment, whilst improving the mental health of staff.
Implementation of the ISO 45003 may be considered a hefty piece of work so requires commitment from senior management. Emphasis is placed on regular consultation and participation of staff in the process. However, these considerations aside, the guidelines will provide organisations with a framework from which they can develop a work environment that looks after the physical, mental health and cultural needs of its staff. By ensuring these fundamental needs are met staff will be better able to navigate and cope with the rapidly evolving landscape of work. Those who already have a Mental Health Wellbeing strategy in place will be in a good position to roll out the ISO 45003.
The British Psychological Society raised some valuable points in its response to the draft proposal of ISO 45003. On a general level the "one size fits all" approach of the guidelines does not take account of individual responses to stressors, and mitigations intended to be supportive may not be right for all. Furthermore, they urge that “psychological theory”; be considered, using the expertise of Psychologists to help organisations understand the
psychosocial impact of decisions. They further highlight that although this ISO is aimed at organisations of all sizes and sectors, small and medium- sized enterprises (SMEs), which make up a large part of business in the UK, may find some guidelines difficult to embed. Overall, the release of the ISO 45003 should be welcomed for shining a light on the mental health needs of employees at a time when it is much needed.