Psychological Health & Safety at Work ISO 45003

Introduction: What is ISO 45003?

ISO 45003 is the first international standard that provides organisations with guidance on managing workplace psychosocial risk. It also promotes well-being and engagement.  It is a major milestone as a global standard and it will encourage organisations of all sizes and in all sectors to address this important issue, and fully integrate it within their Occupational Health and Safety management systems.

Who created this standard?

The ISO 45003 guideline is currently being developed by a committee of experts at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

It is designed to complement and extend the current ISO 45001 international occupational health and safety management systems standard, it enables organisations to proactively improve their Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) management system performance to prevent injury and ill-health.

It has had input from:

  • 41 participating countries
  • 6 international liaison organisations
  • It has 136+ participating experts in the working group

What do the guidelines cover?

ISO 45003 provides guidance on how organisations can manage workplace psychosocial risk by identifying primary risk factors, and then determining what can be done to improve the working environment:

  1. How to identify the conditions, circumstances and workplace demands that can potentially impair the psychological wellbeing and health of employees.
  2. How to identify primary risk factors and assess them to determine what changes need to be implemented to limit those risks.
  3. How to identify and control work related hazards and manage psychosocial risk within an occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system.

About Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) 

OH&S management controls the conditions and factors that affect, or could affect, the health and safety of workers (including temporary workers and contractor personnel), visitors, or any other person in the workplace, to avoid their ill health and/or injury.

This painting depicts a woman examining her work on a lathe at a factory in Britain during World War II. Her eyes are not protected. Today, such practice would not be permitted in most industrialized countries that adhere to occupational health and safety standards for workers. In many countries, however, such standards are still either weak or nonexistent.

What is Psychosocial risk ?

The Health and Safety executive defines Psychosocial risk as things that may affect workers’ psychological response to their work, and workplace conditions (including working relationships with supervisors and colleagues). Examples are:

  • High workloads
  • Tight deadlines
  • Lack of control of the work and working methods


Many jobs are not well designed and include some or all of the following undesirable features, which may lead to psychosocial risks:

  • Workers have little control over their work and work methods (including shift patterns)
  • Workers are unable to make full use of their skills
  • As a rule, workers are not involved in making decisions that affect them
  • Workers are expected to only carry out repetitive, monotonous tasks
  • Work is machine or system paced (and may be monitored inappropriately)
  • Work demands are perceived as excessive
  • Payment systems encourage working too quickly or without breaks
  • Work systems limit opportunities for social interaction
  • High levels of effort are not balanced by sufficient reward (resources, remuneration, self-esteem, status).

How does psychosocial risk affect your workforce?

According to the World Health Organisation¹:

Psychosocial risks go hand in hand with the experience of work-related stress. Longitudinal studies and systematic reviews have indicated that stress at work is associated with heart disease, depression, and musculoskeletal disorders and there is consistent evidence that high job demands, low control, and effort-reward imbalance are risk factors for mental and physical health problems


Negative outcomes for workers can lead to poor health and associated diseases² including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Associated poor health behaviours (e.g. substance misuse, unhealthy eating)


This translates into reduced employee job satisfaction, commitment and productivity ³.

Mental health problems and other stress-related disorders are recognised to be among the leading causes of early retirement from work, high absence rates, overall health impairment and low organisational productivity.

How ISO 45003 helps organisations:

As a guideline it is not mandatory and organisations are not yet able to certify against this guidance standard. However early adopters of this global standard will benefit from the considerable experience and knowledge that the ISO contains. It will improve employees job satisfaction and contribute to the smooth running within company infrastructure and profitability.

The impact of psychosocial risks for organisations includes increased costs due to:

  • Employee absenteeism from work
  • Reduced turnover
  • Reduced product or service quality
  • Recruitment and training
  • Costs associated with workplace investigations and litigation
  • Damage to the organisation’s reputation


Effective management of psychosocial risk can lead to benefits such as:

  • Improved worker engagement
  • Enhanced productivity
  • Increased innovation
  • Organisational sustainability

APeopleBusiness can help your business get ready for and implement ISO 45003

We have reviewed what is already in the public domain on ISO 45003 and can confirm that running our stress diagnostic tool StressFactor™ should give you the evidence base you need to comply with the standard.

StressFactor™ goes beyond just complying with the ISO standard. It also provides the ‘evidence base’ to help you plan on preventing stress in your workplace. APB’s studies with clients have shown that even the simplest, immediate actions to address core causes of stress, can make substantial improvements in both wellbeing and productivity.

Our data and measurements are key to implementing ISO 45003 including:

> Reviewing current arrangements and competence against the  ISO 45003 guidance.

> Consult with your directors, workforce and stakeholders to identify areas for improving the management of psychosocial risk.

> We will work with you to develop an implementation and review plan.

Stress Factor - insights into how workplace stress affects productivity

Sources / Resources:


[1] WHO : Health Impact of Psychosocial Hazards of Work: An Overview

[2] ISO/DIS 45003:2020(E) PDF / Introduction

[3] WHO:

Health and Safety Executive | UK Gov

Infographic:  Health and safety law (pocket card) and Poster that you can use in your workplace  Link