Jeff Witte, DNV

Does Your Organization Need a Tool to Assess Risks to the Psychological Well-being of Its Employees?

By Jeff Witte
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Jeff Witte, DNV

The psychological well being of employees has become a key factor in performance and productivity at work. To assist organizations with best practices in addressing employee well being, the ISO 45003 standard has been developed.

The current pandemic has faced us with unexpected feelings of uncertainty, loneliness and loss. For many people the hustling and bustling environment of productive interaction and communication was the world, within which they gladly spent most of their lives. Recognition, encouragement, appreciative looks, words of respect, collaboration, competition, and workplace friendships have been abruptly taken away. This has left us face to face with computer screens and outdated icons of co-worker’s faces.

As a result, the psychological well-being of employees has become a key factor in performance and productivity at work. To assist organizations with best practices in addressing employee well-being, the International Organization for Standardization has developed ISO 45003 standard.

ISO 45003 – Occupational health and safety management – Psychological health and safety at work – Guidelines for managing psychosocial risks, is an occupational health and safety management standard, which now covers “many areas that can impact a worker’s psychological health, including ineffective communication, excessive pressure, poor leadership and organizational culture”, as stated in the description on ISO.org. It will also help to meet the requirements of ISO 45001 (previously known as OHSAS), the world’s standard for a physical occupational health and safety management system.

Today, organizations can take preventative measures for securing their staff’s mental and physical well-being by implementing ISO 45003. This best practice guidance document covers elements such as:

  • How to identify, recognize and assess risk factors that may psychologically impair the workforce
  • How to determine necessary changes for improvement
  • How to control potential hazards and manage them effectively

Norma McCormick, Project Leader of the ISO technical committee that developed the standard, said on ISO.com, “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 global standard provides simple and practical ways for organizations to prioritize protection of employees, and others, who are associated with the organization’s activities.

This compilation of best practices will assist organizations with the recognition of psychosocial hazards and risks such as stress, bullying, harassment, violence in the workplace and the like.
These risks, if ignored or unchecked, can cause negative effects on the health, safety and well-being of employees, thus affecting total organizational performance. More importantly, these risks and hazards can lead to health conditions such as diabetes, cardio-vascular disorders and insomnia which, oftentimes, leads to behavior changes like overeating and alcohol and drug abuse.

The potential detrimental impact on employees’ commitment, productivity, and job satisfaction are clear. Organizations that do not recognize the risks and hazards, or choose to ignore them, will see increased absence from work due to sick leave, high turnover, declining quality of products and/or services, which in turn can cause additional expenses or layoffs, litigation and incident investigations resulting in low morale and damage to the brand.

If you’ve been looking for guidance and best practice in dealing with workforce health and safety in these trying times, take a look at 45003 and its potential benefits:

  1. High levels of discretionary effort
  2. Improved recruitment, retention and diversity
  3. Enhanced worker engagement
  4. Increased innovation
  5. Legal compliance
  6. Reduced absence from workplace due to stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression.1

As a guideline, ISO 45003 is a non-certifiable standard that can be assessed for compliance by an independent third party, like DNV. It can be conducted as a stand-alone assessment or in combination with an ISO 45001 (Occupational Health and Safety) management system certification audit.

Having achieved compliance to ISO 45003, you will demonstrate that you care and have the right measures in place for improvement of your workers’ health and well-being.

1Source: https://www.dnv.us/services/iso-45003-psychological-health-and-safety-at-work-204506

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Jeff Witte, DNV

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