Using ISO 45001 and 45003 to manage psychosocial hazards


Today’s dynamic work environment demands that employers ensure the wellbeing of employees beyond physical safety. Psychological and social factors can significantly impact an individual’s health and productivity, making it crucial for businesses to address psychosocial hazards effectively.

In this article, we’ll look at what psychosocial hazards are, the difference between psychosocial and psychological hazards with examples in the workplace, and how integrated ISO standards 45001 and 45003 can be leveraged for effective management. 

What are psychosocial hazards?

 The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), defines psychosocial hazards as ‘factors in the work environment that can cause stress, strain, or interpersonal problems for the worker.’ These hazards can arise from organisational practices, work design, interpersonal relationships, and the broader socio-economic environment.

Evidence of this is clear, as a recent TUC report reveals that 55% of workers feel that work is getting more intense and demanding over time, with the latest figures from AXA UK showing that burnout, mental ill health and work-related stress are costing the economy £28bn a year. 

What is the difference between psychosocial and psychological hazards?

While the terms “psychosocial” and “psychological” are often used interchangeably, they do refer to different aspects of workplace hazards. For instance, psychosocial hazards are factors that influence both social and psychological aspects of wellbeing. In contrast, psychological hazards focus solely on the factors related to mental health and emotional wellbeing, such as stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma.

Examples of psychosocial hazards in the workplace

For a healthier and more productive business, it’s important to recognise some of the most common psychological hazards, including: 

Excessive workload

When employees are consistently required to meet unrealistic deadlines or handle an overwhelming amount of work, it can lead to stress and burnout, affecting work-life balance, productivity, and morale. 

Lack of support from colleagues and/or management

This psychosocial hazard refers to situations where employees feel isolated or unsupported by their peers or superiors in the workplace. This can lead to feelings of disengagement, frustration, and reduced morale, ultimately affecting their overall wellbeing and performance.

Reduced control over work 

Employees feel they have limited independence and decision-making power in their job roles, leading to a sense of powerlessness and frustration as a result of rigid management structures, micromanagement, or lack of opportunities for input and feedback.

Workplace bullying

Intimidating or harassing behaviour from colleagues or superiors can create a hostile work environment, affecting the mental wellbeing of targeted individuals. This includes actions like verbal abuse, exclusion, or spreading rumours. More extreme examples such as aggressive or violent behaviour are also psychosocial hazards. 

Job insecurity

Uncertainty about job stability, including layoffs or restructuring, can cause severe anxiety and decreased job satisfaction among employees as they grapple with the uncertainty surrounding their livelihoods.

Poor work-life balance

When employees struggle to balance their work responsibilities with personal life commitments, it can lead to chronic stress and negatively impact overall wellbeing. Frequently, it results from factors like long hours, tight deadlines, and a culture that values overwork. 

Traumatic events 

If employees struggle to balance their work responsibilities with personal life commitments, it can cause significant psychological distress and emotional upheaval. This can be exacerbated by traumatic events like workplace accidents, natural disasters, or exposure to violence, whereby individuals affected may experience symptoms of PTSD, such as flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and hypervigilance.

What is ISO 45001 and 45003?

ISO 45001 is an international Standard that provides a framework for organisations to improve occupational Health & Safety performance. It outlines requirements for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving an occupational Health & Safety management system (OHSMS). 

ISO 45003 is a new global ISO Standard that specifically focuses on managing psychosocial risks within the OHSMS framework. It provides guidelines for identifying, assessing, and managing psychosocial hazards in the workplace to build a more positive work environment. 

The benefits of using ISO 45001 and 45003 

Using ISO 45001 and 45003 to manage psychological hazards is a winning strategy, providing businesses with numerous benefits, including:

  • Comprehensive risk management: By incorporating psychosocial risk management into the broader OHSMS framework, businesses can systematically identify, assess, and avoid a wide range of hazards, including those related to psychological and social factors.
  • Legal compliance: Adhering to ISO 45001 and 45003 helps organisations comply with relevant occupational Health & Safety regulations and standards, reducing the risk of legal penalties and liabilities associated with workplace hazards.
  • Improved employee wellbeing: Proactively addressing psychosocial hazards creates a healthier and more supportive work environment, leading to increased employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention.
  • Enhanced organisational performance: Managing psychosocial hazards effectively can reduce absenteeism, presenteeism, and turnover rates while improving productivity, innovation, and overall business performance.

So, by integrating ISO 45001, the Standard for Occupational Health & Safety, with the practical guidelines on psychosocial hazards in ISO 45003, you can create an all-inclusive framework that identifies both physical and psychological risks to your workers and develop effective processes to help reduce or eliminate them entirely. 

Manage psychosocial hazards with Citation ISO Certification!

Transform your workforce and business today with our ISO services, harnessing the power of our integrated management systems like ISO 45001 and ISO 45003. You can also gain control of your compliance 24/7 through our online management system platform, Atlas ISO. This comes with the additional benefits of built-in document controls, digital templates and automated task management. 

Request a quote today, or call our team on 0333 242 8316, for more information.

Sign up to get the latest in your inbox

    • Email address

About the author

  • Name:

    Hayley Powell

  • Company:

  • Bio:


QMS International use cookies to provide you with a better site experience, enable features and to help us understand how our website is being used.

By continuing, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our Cookie Policy

Allow All Cookies

Allow Strictly Necessary Cookies Only