A global standard for Health & Safety


A new global standard for health and safety management systems is set to be published. Richard Jones, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), comments on ISO 45001.

As a liaison body to the committee responsible for developing ISO 45001, IOSH has been very active in the development of this first-ever truly international standard for occupational safety and health (OSH) management systems.

It represents a significant improvement on what has gone before. Among these improvements are an increased focus on leadership and worker participation and on ‘context’.

Overall, the introduction of ISO 45001 means we now have a standard that has international consensus, something that its forerunner, OHSAS 18001, did not have. It is also up-to-date and uses the new high-level structure, common to management system standards, such as ISO 9001 and 14001.

Organisations that apply its principles will find it assists them with managing their OSH risks. The standard has been designed so that it’s applicable to organisations of any size, sector or location. Its requirements are intended to allow an organisation to meet them in a way that’s proportionate to its risk profile, size and complexity.

Organisations will naturally have questions about the standard, including what potential challenges they may encounter.

These challenges will largely depend on where the organisation is starting from in terms of its OSH management and should also be viewed as opportunities to improve. Areas that have a stronger focus than OHSAS 18001 include ensuring there’s visible top-level leadership, with worker participation in decision-making and ensuring OSH is integral to all business decisions and operations.

Supply chains will need to be considered as well. Client organisations that are certificated to ISO 45001 will want to extend their management of OSH risk as far into their supply chains as they have control or influence.

Organisations will of course also want to know how much it will cost. This depends on the level of maturity of their OSH management systems. A gap analysis will help assess how much work is required to satisfactorily meet all the requirements of ISO 45001. For those seeking certification, the cost will involve employing a certification body and this will vary depending on the size and nature of the organisation. It’s important to stress that certification is not an end in itself, but the start of a continual improvement process.

However, it’s worth emphasising that any work done to improve the management of an organisation’s OSH risks will bring both human and business benefits and so should be considered an investment, not a cost. It’s all about effectively managing OSH risk.

In terms of guidance, the standard has an annex that provides informative explanations on each clause, to help understand. The British Standards Institute intends to publish BS 45002 (an implementation guide) at the same time the standard is launched. Other national standards bodies around the world will probably produce similar documents.

If your organisation is going for ISO 45001 certification and would be interested in helping IOSH create a case study based on your experiences, please contact us on iso45001@iosh.com.


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