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How is ISO 45001 related to mental health?

Just as every company is different, so every Occupational Health & Safety Management System (OHSMS) is different, even if it is implemented to meet the requirements of ISO 45001:2018. When you are using the requirements of the international standard to design the processes for your company, you will need to take into account the Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) environment that is already present. If mental health is a key OH&S concern for your company, then the OHSMS that you create needs to connect mental health and the ISO 45001 processes. So, where does this fit into the ISO 45001:2018 standard?

Mental health in ISO 45001:2018

While it is not specifically mentioned in the ISO 45001:2018 standard, mental health initiatives can become an important part of the processes that you include in the OHSMS. Many of the requirements include areas where mental health can play a key part in implementation. Some of these clauses include:

ISO 45001 & mental health: What are the relevant clauses?

Needs of workers and interested parties (clause 4.2). One of the first things you need to do when implementing your OHSMS is to identify the needs of workers and other interested parties. This would be where you identify mental health as a key factor in the OH&S of the workforce then use this information in other processes of the OHSMS. If it is very important, then it should be incorporated into the OH&S policy (clause 5.2) that sets the overall goal of the OHSMS. For instance, your policy might include the statement, “XYZ company will implement programs to improve employee mental health throughout the company.” To better understand how to use the requirements for interested parties, see the article: Determining interested parties according to ISO 45001.

Hazard identification (clause If mental health is one of the key needs of workers, then you will want to include this in your assessment of the hazards presented by different processes and functions in the organization. If you have hazards that are increasing the risk of poor mental health, then you will want to put controls in place to address these hazards. For example, since workplace stress can be a cause of poor mental health, if you have a process that is extremely fast-paced and can cause stress in employees who need to ensure the job is done correctly, you may want to find a way to rotate employees through this job to mitigate the hazard (as per clause 8.1.2 below).

OH&S objectives and plans (clause 6.2). One of the main ways that a company shows improvement within their OHSMS is to pick some key areas where they want to improve performance within the company. Mental health could be one of these key performance indicators for which a company makes a plan to reach an improvement objective. This clause would further demand that you make a plan of action to reach your mental health improvement goal, including timelines, resources, and how you will evaluate the results. To better understand OH&S objectives in the OHSMS, see the article: How to define ISO 45001 objectives and plans.

Eliminating hazards and OH&S risks (clause 8.1.2). This is a follow-on clause from clause above. Where you have identified mental health hazards within your organization, you will want to put in some controls to eliminate the hazards or reduce its impact. For mental health hazards, you may need to consider administrative or engineering controls since you may not be able to fully eliminate the hazard. For instance, you may need to institute job rotation for employees so that a person does not end up in the same mentally stressful position. An example of this is nurses who rotate between patients because some patients can be more mentally taxing than others. For more on controlling hazards in the OHSMS, see the article: 5 levels of hazard controls in ISO 45001 and how they should be applied.

Management of change (clause 8.1.3). This clause is different from those above. In general, during times of disruption, having a change management process that minimizes impact to the OH&S is good for employee mental health. Knowing what is happening in times of change is important for the mental health of many people, and therefore many of your employees can be positively affected if you manage change well.

One of the important reasons for implementing your OHSMS is to not only improve OH&S performance, but by doing so to help improve employee satisfaction. A focus on improving employee mental health can contribute to the improvement of employee satisfaction. In turn, this makes them more content and fulfilled with their workplace and job performance. Satisfied employees can be a great benefit for an organization by improving overall company performance.

Use the ISO 45001:2018 requirements to make an OHSMS that works for you

It can not be said often enough that the OHSMS you are implementing from the ISO 45001:2018 requirements is intended to be specific to your company and your particular needs. This means that it is critical to assess and understand the OH&S factors that need to be managed and controlled within your company. If mental health is one of these, then it should play a key role in your implementation. You can only have an OHSMS that improves your OH&S performance if you make it specific to your needs. No generic system will do if you want it to work properly.

To see more details about the above mentioned requirements, download this free whitepaper: Clause-by-clause explanation of ISO 45001:2018.

Advisera Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.