By Paul Richard / Unison Workplace Strategies


This past March, I was able to attend the very first training session in North America on the new ISO Standard 9001:45003 Occupational Health & Safety Management – Psychological Health & Safety at Work: Managing psychosocial risks.

It quickly made me realize that it is not only important to have systems and procedures in place in order to be efficient, but it is also very important to take employees into account.

In other words, what are we currently doing as managers that mitigates potential psychosocial risks? Are we putting added stress on our employees or are we doing all we can to create a healthy work environment?


So, what is ISO 45003?

It is the first global standard that provides practical guidance on managing psychological health in the workplace. It provides guidance on how to manage psychosocial risk within the framework of an occupational health and safety management system.

The standard includes information on how to recognize the psychosocial hazards that can affect workers and offers examples of effective, and often simple, actions that can be taken to manage these and improve employee well-being.

The standard has been written in such as way that it can be integrated into an occupational health and safety management system based on ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety, but it can also be extremely useful for all organizations looking to ensure their employees’ well-being.

According to a white paper recently published by BSI Group, some of the benefits of investing in health and well-being in the workplace are:

  • 44% improvement in employee morale and engagement
  • 35% healthier and more inclusive culture
  • 31% less sick leave

The study also states that well-designed wellness programs have a return on investment of $1.50 to $3.00 per dollar spent over a two to nine-year timeframe and that thriving and healthy workforces typically perform at 2.2 times above average compared with organizations who don’t invest in their employees’ health and well-being.


Workplace wellness programs

The best workplace wellness programs recognize that there are inter-related elements; the individual, the work environment/job, the organization and social engagement/values. Done properly, wellness programs are more than just a few healthy life initiatives.

They are about creating an organizational culture which promotes strong, ethical workplace relationships based on trust and respect, a collaborative and communicative management style and a culture in which learning, and development is encouraged so that people can fulfill their potential.

A well-designed wellness program also promotes good physical and psychological health while enabling broader social engagement.

The idea behind this standard is that organizations should identify and prevent or manage the causes of occupational stress and what is often referred to as “psychosocial” hazards which can lead to physical and mental illness.

The WHO (World Health Organization) has developed a healthy workplace model identifying five criteria to success.

  1. Leadership commitment and engagement
  2. Involvement of workers and their representatives
  3. Business ethics and legality
  4. Use of a systematic, comprehensive process to ensure effectiveness and continual improvement
  5. Sustainability and integration


Here are a few examples of questions that you can ask yourself

Aspects of how work is organized:

  • Are roles and expectations clearly defined and communicated?
  • What are the job demands: Are skills being underused? Are there conflicting demands and deadlines?
  • Are there unrealistic expectations of workers?
  • Is there a high level of time pressure?

Aspects concerning social factors at work:

  • Is there poor communication within the organization?
  • How is the relationship between managers, supervisors, coworkers, etc.?
  • Has leadership set a clear vision and objectives?
  • Is the management style suited to the nature of the work?
  • Is there support from management when it comes to problem-solving?
  • How do you manage violence at work, harassment and bullying?
  • Is there career stagnation and uncertainty, under-promotion or over-promotion, or lack of opportunity for skill development?

Aspects concerning work environment, equipment and hazardous tasks:

  • Is there adequate equipment availability, suitability or maintenance?
  • Do you have poor workplace conditions such as lack of space, poor lighting, or excessive noise?
  • Are employees working in extreme conditions?

Organizations should identify psychosocial hazards and implement control measures

Some examples of measures could be:

  • Increasing workers’ control over the way they do their work
  • Allow breaks to manage fatigue
  • Restrict work-related contact via cell phone and email in non-work hours
  • Consult workers about workplace changes and how they can affect them
  • Encourage employees to report issues as quickly as possible when they occur
  • Establish support measures for workers who are experiencing negative impacts from exposure to psychosocial risks
  • And many more….
Imposez vous du stress

How does your organization measure up when it comes to employee well-being? Are you a cause of stress or are you mitigating stress and encouraging a healthy work environment?

Why not use the Stress Management Competency Indicator Tool? This tool will help you identify how effective you are at preventing and reducing stress among your staff by looking at four behavioural areas identified as being important for managers to prevent and reduce stress in their staff:

  1. Respect and responsibility
  2. Managing and communicating existing and future work
  3. Managing the individual within the team
  4. Reasoning/managing difficult situations

If you are interested in learning more about this tool or about ISO 9001:45003, contact us: Get in touch with us if you are interested in learning more about this tool or about ISO 9001:45003.

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