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The arrival of a new ISO standard, ISO 45003, this summer will put the management of psychological health and safety and psychosocial risk firmly in the spotlight. Occupational health practitioners would do well therefore to be getting up to speed with it so they can provide effective leadership, argues Sheila Lord.
Wellbeing is often put under the remit of HR professionals but is this the right approach, especially with the arrival this summer of a new ISO standard for managing psychological health and safety at work?
How many organisations are knowingly or unknowingly breaking the law when it comes to workplace wellbeing, especially in these times of Covid when mental ill health and stress levels globally are at an all-time high as we continue to work our way through the pandemic?
I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess but, when I ask businesses about their psychosocial risk assessments, only around 5% are carrying out these assessments regularly.
Assessing psychosocial risk
Yet the UK Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 Section 2.2 is clear: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare at work of all his employees. The matters to which that duty extends include in particular – the provision and maintenance of a working environment for his employees that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe, without risks to health, and adequate as regards facilities and arrangements for their welfare at work.”
This applies to all employers, regardless of size and this duty of care extends to psychiatric injury. To recap, too, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to assess the risk of stress-related ill health arising from work activities, as you would a physical hazard.
There is plenty of case law that exists, and the Health and Safety at Work Act is not the only legislation. Mental health at work is also covered under the Equality Act 2010 and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
Yet, wellbeing is often considered as being a ‘benefit’ or a perk; something that is optional on the part of the employer. The law says different.
Pressure of ‘three pandemics’
In the summer of this year, we have the new ISO 45003 standard for managing psychological health and safety at work coming out.
The timing could not be better. We have three pandemics affecting the world on a global basis