World’s first international workplace mental health Standard published

The British Standards Institute (BSI) has published BS ISO 45003:2021: Occupational Health and Safety Management. Psychological Health and Safety at Work. Guidelines for Managing Psychosocial Risks.

To help organisations prioritise people by supporting the mental health of workers, this British Standard aims to provide simple, practical guidance on how to manage the psychosocial hazards that arise in the work environment and that challenge health, safety and well-being at work.

It is aimed at all types and sizes of organisation, across all sectors. Specific users will include:

  • Line managers
  • HR staff
  • Business owners
  • CEOs and board members.

BS ISO 45003:2021 gives guidance on managing psychological health and safety risks within an occupational health and safety management system. It addresses the many areas that can impact a worker’s psychological health, including ineffective communication, excessive pressure, poor leadership and organizational culture.

The standard covers aspects such as how to identify the conditions, circumstances and workplace demands that have the potential to impair the psychological health and well-being of workers; how to identify primary risk factors and assess them to determine what changes are required to improve the working environment; and how to identify and control work-related hazards and manage psychosocial risk within an occupational health and safety management system.

Norma McCormick, Project Leader of the ISO technical committee that developed the standard, said stressors such as uncertainty, fear, isolation and changing workloads have been exacerbated for many workers during this period, but the standard is not just about COVID-19.

“Every organization has occupational health and safety responsibilities, and the current pandemic has brought into sharp focus the important role that psychological health in the workplace plays,” she said.

“While many have felt powerless about the impact of recent events, there are many things that can be done to build the resilience of staff and promote a strong organizational culture. This standard brings together international best practice in this area and is relevant to companies of all types and sizes.”

This new standard is a tool that anyone can use to prioritise the people within an organisation. It aims to help:

  • Identify where psychosocial risks arise and how they can be mitigated or eliminated.
  • Users develop expertise.
  • Increase people’s trust.
  • Manage risk better.

By preventing work-related ill-health, organisations can benefit from:

  • Improved worker engagement.
  • Enhanced productivity and higher levels of discretionary effort.
  • Increased innovation.
  • Greater organizational resilience and legal compliance.

Conversely, BSI suggests that the costs of not prioritising people and their psychosocial health can lead to:

  • Poor health, including cardiovascular disease and musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Poor health behaviours, including substance abuse and unhealthy eating.
  • Reduced job satisfaction, commitment and performance.
  • Increased absence from workplace stress, burnout, anxiety and depression.
  • Higher costs for the organization due to negative impacts on turnover, productivity, quality, training and recruitment.
  • Higher costs from workplace investigations, litigation and reputational damage.