ISO 45003 and What it Cannot Do

imageAs we read through the ISO Standard 45003 we see so much nonsense language it is difficult to know where to start. So, let’s just progress through the document and respond to the language used. (We will tackle the complementary codes of practice another time).

Point 1 in Scope we have this:

‘It enables organisations to prevent work-related injury and ill health of their workers and other interested parties, and to promote well-being at work’

Ah, no it can’t and it won’t. No-one in the area of Psychosocial and Mental Health would ever make such a silly and unprofessional claim. One must ask the question: How is this document going to do this? What by providing a new checklist? By what method and methodology does this document hope that Psychosocial and Mental Health will improve?

So much of this language thrown at the challenges of Psychosocial and Mental Health is typical ‘safety speak’ and safety code ( for more behaviourism, engineering and brutalism to persons.

How is this industry going to approach persons humanely when the global mantra is zero? What chance has the industry got to tackle this issue properly with a curriculum and Body of Knowledge without any ethic of personhood, care, helping and humanising risk?

I know, let’s put out another checklist, it worked last time, NOT!

Point 3.1 the language of ‘hazard’ and ‘hazardous’ is used four times.

This language is a disaster for any methodology in tackling Psychosocial and Mental Health.

Human persons and their issues must never be referred to as a ‘hazard’ or ‘hazardous’.

This is the exact language one needs to demonise persons and any presenting issues.

There is no context in which a ‘Hierarchy of Control’ can be applied to anything to do with Psychosocial and Mental Health. And who is going to determine what ‘severity’ is? Who in the organisation has been educated in the sensitivities and maturity required to respond professionally to any issue in Psychosocial and Mental Health? Especially, as safety is NOT a profession and because zero determines its lack of ethics.

Point 3.2 defines the ‘expectations’ of well-being and of course ignores vital elements of holistic understanding of persons.

Indeed, I wonder what an engineer thinks the word ‘mental’ means? How does an organisation declare ‘expectations’ in Psychosocial and Mental Health? On what ethical foundation (because Safety has none other than ‘duty’) is such an expectation going to be framed? If zero and safety are the number one priority, how is an organisation going to respond to self-harm?

Point 4. We now have the need to consider: ‘external issues to work’ with the intended outcomes of course to be OHS outcomes and systems!

How typical. The first consideration in Psychosocial and Mental Health is the outcome for the person and their needs NOT some OHS need. And who is qualified and professional in Safety with the skills and experience to do this? Most organisations who can afford it will simply throw this at an EAP provider.

Point 4.1.1 asks organisations to ‘understand the needs and expectations of workers’

Hmmm, how fascinating when this industry never talks about ‘listening’. Safety is the industry of telling. This standard by its language simply encourages more telling. There is nothing in the safety curriculum globally that helps safety people to become listeners. Listening is the foundation of understanding. And don’t forget, this point follows directly after the point that prioritises OHS outcomes and systems.

The points that follow in 4.1.1 border on the absurd. For example:

  • To consider how a Psychosocial and Mental Health need might become a ‘legal requirement’.
  • ‘Adjust design’ to manage Psychosocial and Mental Health.
  • Tailor activities to Psychosocial and Mental Health need.
  • Assess Psychosocial and Mental risks for action plans.

This stuff is astounding, naïve and premised on an absurd idea of what Psychosocial and Mental Health is.

Where is the education and experience in the workplace to do any of this? What kind of design is going to come when the best Safety can do is ‘Do your duty and check your gut’! (

How is this industry going to engage in Psychosocial and Mental Health when it never talks about the unconscious? How is it going to tackle Psychosocial and Mental Health when it never talks about the embodied person? How is it going to help tailor ‘activities’ and develop ‘action plans’ when it has no interest in Social Psychology of Risk (SPoR)? BTW, there has been no contact or consultation with SPoR from any regulator, association, SafeWork authority etc about any of this. This is typical of how this industry responds from is mono-disciplinary cocoon. This is what you get from a mantra of zero.

Can’t wait till November in Sydney where all the anxiety levels will increase trying to suppress the zero secret.

At 4.1.2 we now launch into ‘external issues’ with the purpose to achieve OHS Outcomes management system. There are ten points to this part of the ISO standard and to comment on each one would require dozens of pages. Let me just say this.

Look at the language of this document and especially this section and there is no mention of care, helping, listening or persons. Indeed, none of this critical language in Psychosocial and Mental Health is ever used. It’s all about ‘customers’ and ‘clients’ within the scope of OHS outcomes (which we all know is zero).

What is so typical of Safety is that there is no mention of real ‘external issues’ in this list of ‘external issues’. This is what Safety does, it defines its own reality by being silent on what matters and noisy on what doesn’t matter. This is how safety code works ( The best guide is to examine safety language and assume the opposite is implied.

At 4.1.3 is the focus on ‘internal issues’ with the goal again OHS outcomes and systems.

Strangely, we get in this section mention of worker’s gender. age. ethnicity. religion. disability. language. literacy and numeracy. Let’s just take one of those issues – religion.

Where at all in any discussion in safety about culture across the globe in safety does anyone include the foundation of religion to an understanding of culture? Nowhere.

So just how is religious sensitivity going to be tackled in any relationship to OHS?

Nowhere across the globe does anyone in safety discuss religion indeed, it is not just silent but avoidant. Just read the AIHS BoK on Culture or any recent publication by so called experts (eg. Hopkins, Cooper etc). No, I know, the best thing is Not to talk about culture, rule number 1. (thanks to Indiana Jones). Such is the industries mono-disciplinary focus on engineering, behaviourism and scientism.

I know, let’s be sensitive to the religion of persons associated with Psychosocial and Mental Health and ask an engineer.

Point 4.3 demands the specific attention to Psychosocial Health be addressed in the OHS Management System.

And who is going to write this? From what base of expertise is a safety advisor going to do this? What is the focus going to be when the industry never talks of persons, care, helping or ethics? Can you just imagine how these ‘hazards’ will be identified in policy?

In the section at point 5 is a focus on leadership.

Where is any education or learning in industry for managers to understand Psychosocial and Mental Health?

The eleven concepts listed are aspirational fairy tale stuff.

I wonder how any zero organisation that preaches intolerance is going to automatically become person-centred, holistic-centred and humanising in what it does?

How is any of this going to happen when most organisations think culture is ‘what we do around here’.

Why would this industry bring out a standard with no capacity to deliver on it?

Could it be evidence of the fact that the industry (of safety engineering) simply doesn’t understand what it is doing and is demonstrating its profound ignorance and aversion to Transdisciplinarity?

Point 5.4 Is the requirement for ‘consultation’.

Of course, in the safety industry this means ‘telling’. Again, the language of ‘listening’ is never used.

There is mention of ‘’motivation in this section but we all know this is code for behaviourism.

Point 6 is about planning and promotion of well-being at work.

Hmmmm, but strategies like ‘hot desking’, FIFO and zero work against any sense of creating a workplace where well-being is taken seriously.

At We have classic safety language of ‘identify sources of harm’ and ‘controls’.

What utter nonsense language when thinking about Psychosocial and Mental Health.

There are no ‘controls’ for Psychosocial and Mental Health.

There is no ‘fixing in Psychosocial and Mental Health.

Any language of such prevents tackling the issues effectively and professionally.

I guess that doesn’t matter for an industry that loves to use the word ‘profession’ with no ethic in how to be professional.

At is the demand to ‘identify’ psychosocial issues (‘hazards’).

Who is going to do this? From what base of professionalism? From what foundational expertise? Who is going to ‘identify’ the social factors when the industry shows no interest in the Social Psychology of Risk?

And what Safety document would be complete without a collection of tables about how work is organised.

This section and its examples include no mention of any critical Social Psychological factors in organising.

There are many examples but one will suffice to demonstrate just how laughable this document is. The issue of FIFO is mentioned.

All of the enquiries and investigations into FIFO (I think at least 10 I know of) all make clear that FIFO in itself propagates Psychosocial and Mental ill health.

I wonder which worker will be first to sue an organisation for failing to make a safe workplace (according to this ISO standard) in Psychosocial and Mental Health because FIFO destroyed their lives? What about the number of destroyed families, relationships and suicides? Do you think RIO, BHP, Gina or Twiggy are going to change FIFO just because this standard says it should be considered?

At 8.1.2 we have: ‘Eliminating hazards and reducing psychosocial risks promotes well-being at work’.

My question is: when will the sackings start under this ISO standard because that is the only way to ‘eliminate’ this so called ‘hazard’ ­- Psychosocial and Mental Health?

It is really difficult to read beyond point 8 in this document and it really cannot be taken seriously.

Can you just imagine now what will happen under Point 10.2 ‘Incident, nonconformity and corrective action’? Especially when the industry is in love with zero.

If ever an industry needed exposure to the reality of Care Ethics it was this industry. And once again the notion of care appears nowhere in the document.


So, in the end we can predict where this will all go?

New volumes of paperwork (see point 7.5) in OHS and for OHS advisors to manufacture, so that the challenges of Psychosocial and Mental Health can be mismanaged under safety code for ‘everybody is now papersafe’ (

Soon to come, a few videos from Greg Smith, myself and Dr Craig Ashhurst on concerns with this ISO standard and what to do about it.

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