This article outlines EMCOR UK’s experiences of adopting the ISO 45003 Standard for Psychological Health and Safety at Work and our learnings so far.
The starting point
We already hold ISO 45001 certification. This is the requirement for an occupational health and safety management system which demands the improvements of occupational health and safety, elimination or minimisation of OH&S risks, the identification of opportunities for improvement and addressing nonconformities.
In October 2020, the executive leadership team made the important decision to change the traditional health, safety and wellbeing approach, recognising that our psychological health and wellbeing are as important as our physical health and safety.
This step change for the organisation meant that structural departmental changes were made, redesigning the department for the first time in 35 years as Wellbeing, Sustainability and Assurance (WSA). Wellbeing is positioned alongside Safety Operations, Risk Assurance, Technical Assurance and Environment and Sustainability.
In January 2021 we adopted the principles of ISO 27500 standard, a human centred organisation, which prompted us to think about some of the aspects of the impending 45003 framework. The publication of ISO 45003 in June accelerated our appetite to align 45003 with 45001 ensuring psychosocial risks were elevated as part of our existing OHS system.
We are delighted to report that on Tuesday 28 September we completed the rigorous four day BSI gap analysis and audit process and we have now been certified against BSI’s new scheme which is based on the international standard ISO 45003: 2021 Occupational health and safety management – psychological health and safety at work – Guidelines for managing psychosocial risks.
Executive buy in has been led by our Chief Executive and the Executive Leadership Team has been vocal and visible in its support and engagement with the wellbeing journey at EMCOR UK. Adopting the ISO framework has been a natural transition and expansion of our existing portfolio of ISO standards, and one which compliments 45001 and 27500 in particular
How we got there
The process we took for adopting the ISO 45003 was two-fold. Firstly, ensuring we have a framework in place which supports psychological health and safety in the workplace. This includes the integration of psychosocial risk identification and control within existing systems, processes, policies and procedures.
It also involved developing a psychologically safe environment through awareness, education, self-management and line manager support in managing health and wellbeing in the workplace. Essentially this first step included our development of a five-year wellbeing strategy with clear objectives, implementation plans and measurement using a wellbeing maturity model.
The second step is discharging central wellbeing activity and initiatives through our network of wellbeing champions and operational wellbeing leads. These activities include but are not limited to: training and awareness on mental health risks, menopause, men’s health, nutrition, sleep, diversity & inclusion; creation of mental health guides and wellbeing action plans; proactive use of our occupational health, employee assistance programme and mental health support service.
From a very early stage, we have been passionate about an authentic approach to health and wellbeing. Our five-year strategy demonstrates our commitment to ensuring the actions we take to achieve our goals are sustainable and not just a race but a journey of embedding change and creating a psychologically safe culture.
Our inclusive wellbeing movement is underpinned by the Business in the Community mental health at work commitment and demonstrates the role every employee has to play in creating a better world at work. Our wellbeing pledge tree invites employees to take the pledge that together as one we want to #endthestigma of mental health and wellbeing, to create a healthier and more inclusive world at work.
Why ISO 45003 is a game changer
What ISO 45003 has enabled is for organisations to identify and address workplace risks by addressing the cause and not the person. In the past, the majority of mental ill health cases at work were dealt with on an individual basis.
An employee may be showing signs and symptoms of mental ill health or have been signed off work. The occupational health and employee assistance programme is used to address the employee’s symptoms and rightly so, but little is done to address the work environment and the employee may return to the same distressed workplace.
ISO 45003 requires us to look at how work is organised, the social factors at work and the work environment and address workplace systemic behaviours. In the same way we would risk assess a job, we should be risk assessing the workplace for mental health risks.
Enabling employees to participate in the identification of workplace risks is a requirement of the standard. The challenge is ensuring employees feel safe to speak up and express vulnerability without fear of retribution. It is important that a safe environment is established where speaking about mental health is normalised and senior leaders as role models.
In our experience the adoption of the standard has been another step toward a better world at work and the foundation of our wellbeing movement. It is important to identify workplace risks whilst simultaneously promoting health and wellbeing initiatives through education and awareness. These cannot be done in isolation. Whilst wellbeing programmes, apps and classes are all positive for employee wellbeing and self-care, the environment in which employees are working needs to be assessed to understand the severity, frequency and duration of mental health risks and the impact they have on wellbeing.