The first global standard to provide employers with practical guidance on how to manage psychosocial risks to staff in the workplace has been finalised.
ISO 45003:2021 was published last week and focuses on the mental health in ‘health and safety’ and offers timely guidance on how to protect the psychosocial wellbeing of staff, as millions of workers get set to head back to the workplace after more than a year of working from home.
With mounting data that poor work organisation, design and management is associated with poor mental health, absenteeism, presenteeism and human error, it was felt that a specific guidance standard on psychosocial risks was needed.
The new standard includes details about what constitutes psychosocial risks, their impact on the individual and the organisation, and how they can be assessed and managed.
During the consultation period, some expressed concern that the guidance is trying to turn line managers into psychologists, however those involved in comprising the standard say it’s about designing work in a more preventative way so that psychological issues don’t arise.
‘For years many workplace professionals have fallen into the wrong perception that the management of work-related psychosocial risks is complex, does not pay off and should not require a strategic approach,’ said Dr. Ivan Williams Jimenez, policy development manager at IOSH.
‘We argue that demonstrating a commitment to the management of psychosocial risks in the workplace and the tendency to focus attention on work-related contributing factors are becoming central to positioning the safety, health and wellbeing of people at the centre of the business agenda.'
IOSH played an important role in the development of the guidance standard. As a Category A liaison body on the PC 283 committee, the membership body was involved from the inception phase to the publication stage. Representatives attended committee meetings, participated in work groups and contributed through changes, improvements and gathering members feedback on the draft standard. Ivan says the opportunity to get involved meant IOSH could translate some of the operational, technical and language barriers to members through different awareness initiatives.
'It is expected that ISO 45003 will help improve awareness and competence within organizations and work-related professionals, in particular for those that are familiarised with occupational safety and health management systems such as ISO 45001,' Ivan added.
Firms designing management systems for ISO 45001 will not have to design a new one for ISO 45003, as these are guidelines specifically for managing psychosocial risks. While ISO 45003 is stand-alone, it can feed into those organisations undergoing ISO 45001, as applying elements of 45003 will help them to achieve it.
IOSH is conscious that the way forward will be complex, notes Ivan. 'While the standard has been produced with an inclusive mindset, bearing in mind the complexities of organisations according to their size, maturity or sector, it is true that we expect an increasing interest followed by adoption from large corporations in the first instance.
'Smaller organisations will need further level of support education and awareness to effectively understand and manage their work-related psychosocial risks as a means to introduce positive changes to the improvement of their working environment and work design.'
Will your organisation be using the new guidance to assess where the impacts of psychosocial risks may occur? We want to hear members' experience of the new standard. Contact the editorial team: [email protected]