Steve May of Lucion Consulting looks at the introduction of ISO 45001 – the new occupational health and safety management standard.
The world’s first international occupational health and safety standard has now been published, with its introduction intended to transform approaches to workplace safety on a global basis.
The much anticipated ISO 45001:2018, Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, provides a new framework for organisations to determine the measures they need to put in place in order to minimise the risk of harm from work activities.
At the last count, the International Labour Organisation calculated that some 2.78 million people die from work-related accidents or diseases every year, with a further 374 million non-fatal injuries and illnesses annually.
Within these figures the new standard recognises that people often suffer prolonged health problems and illness from their exposure to risks at work and that these cases should not be ignored by placing the focus entirely on avoiding accidents.
Importantly, therefore, ISO 45001 is designed to both avoid workplace injuries and at the same time prevent longer term worker ill health by providing a comprehensive approach to occupational health and safety (OHS) and the provision of a healthy working environment.
In this respect the intention is to provide organisations with the appropriate guidance to effectively manage all of their workplace risks so that they can survive and thrive commercially.
To do so ISO 45001 has been specifically developed to integrate with the other ISO management standards, ISO 9001 (quality) and ISO 14001 (environment), to ensure that improved occupational health and safety systems can contribute to and drive better overall business performance.
In this way, by successfully reducing workplace absences caused by injuries and illnesses, compliance with the standard should ensure greater business continuity, reduce the risk of insurance claims and regulatory action, and avert any reputational damage – all of which could severely impact an organisation’s wellbeing.
Certification to ISO 45001 will therefore demonstrate that an organisation has robust arrangements in place and should also provide some commercial advantage, particularly in tendering opportunities with customers holding the new standard in high regard and many requiring it as a condition of doing business.
ISO 45001 replaces the previous OHSAS 18001 standard, to which many organisations were certified, and with which they realised the benefits of external verification. Those organisations will be able to migrate their management systems across to the new standard, and will have up to three years to complete the process.
In practical terms the standard uses a simple model that reflects the widely recognised Plan-Do-Check-Act approach to provide a framework for organisations to identify what steps need to be taken to minimise the risk of harm.
Central to this approach is that senior management take ownership and demonstrate commitment to the implementation of proactive OHS systems. It also recognises the value of worker involvement and consultation in minimising risk and developing better OHS practices.
More than 70 countries across the world have been directly involved in the creation of the new document and the aim is to improve working standards across global supply chains.
However, the standard’s framework process is also designed to be flexible enough to apply to all employers, irrespective of size, industry or activity so that its principles, relevance and impact will be widespread.
Overall, compliance with the new ISO 45001 will clearly demonstrate that an organisation is committed to setting higher standards for the wellbeing of its people and to a safer and healthier workplace.
However, and more importantly, having the opportunity to integrate OHS with other essential management standards and systems should also be regarded as a fundamental investment in the future success of any business or organisation.