Two people leaning on each other

Briefing: ISO 45003 - a great step forward in mental health

Recognising and managing the health and wellbeing of your people has never been so important, and the arrival of a new ISO Standard, ISO 45003, in June has put the management of psychological health and safety and psychosocial risk firmly in the spotlight. But what is the Standard, who is it for, and how can it work for your organisation? In this briefing, the National Standards body BSI answers some questions.


What is ISO 45003?

ISO 45003 is the first global standard giving practical guidance on managing psychological health in the workplace. It provides guidance on the management of psychosocial risk, as part of an occupational health and safety management system.


Who is it for?

ISO 45003 is written to help organisations using an occupational health and safety management system based on ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety.

It will also be useful for organisations that haven't yet implemented an occupational health and safety management system.

Why is ISO 45003 good for your organisation?

As well as helping you to build a positive working environment, a framework for managing psychological health and safety can help to improve your organisational resilience and enhance performance and productivity.

Other benefits include:

  • High levels of discretionary effort.
  • Improved recruitment, retention and diversity.
  • Enhanced worker engagement.
  • Increased innovation.
  • Legal compliance.
  • Reduced absence from workplace stress, burnout, anxiety and depression.


Is ISO 45003 a requirements or guidance standard?

ISO 45003 is a guidance standard. It does not include any requirements. It is intended to complement the requirements in ISO 45001 and guide organisations on how to address OH&S issues relating to psychological health within their general OH&S management system.


Can ISO 45003 be used by small organisations and/or self-employed people?

Yes. ISO 45003 provides examples and guidance for all types of organisation and individuals.


Is the standard written to be easily implemented alongside 45001?

Yes. ISO 45003 complements ISO 45001 by providing information on how to ensure psychosocial risk is considered when meeting ISO 45001 requirements.


Why is ISO 45003 a separate standard as opposed to being integrated into ISO 45001 as a holistic approach?

ISO 45003 recognises that psychological health, safety and wellbeing are not always fully addressed within OH&S management. The standard is designed to help organisations better understand and address these aspects of OH&S management so that their system covers all aspects of health and safety, not just those that are more familiar and seen as simpler to address.


Is ISO 45003 certifiable?

ISO 45003 is a guidance standard, not a requirements standard like ISO 45001. This means that ISO 45003 cannot be awarded an “accredited” certification like ISO 45001. BSI and possibly other certification bodies will be offering a non-accredited certification to ISO 45003. BSI will be offering unaccredited certification to ISO 45003 to both clients that have ISO 45001 and clients that do not have ISO 45001.


Who should implement the standard – HR or safety professionals?

As with any risk management system, all workers within an organisation need to play an active part in making it a success. Often a particular ‘function’ within an organisation will lead implementation and this varies from organisation to organisation. As ISO 45003 is designed to support ISO 45001, for many organisations the safety team may lead implementation; for others it may be the HR team, or even the quality team. Whichever function ‘leads’, it will be essential for health and safety teams and HR in particular to work closely together, as many of the recommendations in ISO 45003 will need to draw on health and safety and HR expertise.


To what extent will psychosocial knowledge and experience be required for an effective implementation and verification of ISO 45003?

ISO 45003 does talk about ensuring that workers are competent for their roles, and notes that external assistance may be required if organisations feel they don’t have the necessary skills and expertise in house. There are many sources of information that can assist in developing capabilities in relation to psychosocial risks. It doesn’t require formal qualifications in psychology or related disciplines.


Does implementation of ISO 45003 provide evidence to regulators (e.g. HSE inspectors in the UK) that things such as the HSE Stress Management Standards are being met?

Regulators are looking for evidence of compliance with legislation. ISO standards can be one source of evidence, but they may not reflect the specific requirements of legislation. Standards are voluntary and laws always take precedence, where they exist.


Does ISO 45003 help top management gain proficiency in dealing with psychosocial hazards?

It helps with identifying the kinds of issues that top management should know about when planning and implementing their organisation’s management system. The standard outlines that organisations should make sure that workers with various roles have the relevant competencies and resources to perform their roles. There are also specific actions, responsibilities and accountabilities set out for top management.


Does the new standard encourage the flexibility created by homeworking?

The standard certainly acknowledges the importance of flexibility as a tool for reducing psychosocial risk. It also identifies that homeworking can increase some types of hazards whilst being an effective mitigation for others – it will depend on individual circumstances and needs as much as anything else.


Does the standard adequately address the issue that the impact of psychosocial risk is extremely personal, unlike physical risk where mitigations can be consistently applied and assessed?

ISO 45003 recognises that there can be many factors that can influence outcomes and individual factors should be considered. However, the real focus of the standard is on what the organisation can do to eliminate or mitigate those sources of harm, to protect everyone, rather than on dealing with the impacts.


Will the standards help separate work-related stress and hazards, and personal life stresses that people bring to work?

ISO 45003 recognises that external factors impact work and that the organisation does not exist in isolation – it cannot ignore what is happening but outside of its control. Recognising that the diversity of the workforce – and therefore their different needs – is going to impact the management of psychosocial risks is important. Whilst the organisation cannot be responsible for managing workers’ external situations, the standard does guide users to address the hazards the organisation does have control of and to manage the impact of potential risks from external hazards.


Does ISO 45003 help address stigma about mental health, which is a big problem?

ISO 45003 is providing practical guidance on managing psychological health and safety in the workplace. Organisations that follow the standard and put in place processes and policies and to raise awareness, prevent psychological ill health, promote wellbeing, and create an environment that is open and trusting will help to break down the deep-rooted stigma that exists in organisation and society at large.


Read BSI’s full Q&As from its ISO 45003 webinars at: ISO 45003 Webinars: FAQs (

Buy your copy of the standard at: ISO 45003 | BSI (

For more information on occupational health and wellbeing: Managing Occupational Health and Wellbeing training course brought to you by International Workplace