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Jean Bruneau
Jean Bruneau

ISO 45001, a modern international standard in occupational safety and health

Health and safety in the workplace are primary preoccupations for most companies. Nevertheless, deaths and injuries continue to occur. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), each year, 374 million nonfatal injuries and diseases are recorded, and more than 2.78 million people die from work-related accidents or diseases. This means that over 7600 lives are lost every day as a result of accidents at work or due to occupational diseases.

On March 2018, the ISO 45001 standard was officially published. Called the Occupational Health and Safety Management SystemsRequirements and Guidelines, this Standard aims to reduce the losses for organizations due to early retirement, absenteeism and the resulting increase in insurance premiums, occupational diseases or accidents, by creating a reference framework for improving workers’ safety, reducing risks at the workplace and creating the best and safest work conditions throughout the world.

ISO 45001, Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems—Requirements and Guidelines, is the first International Standard dedicated to occupational health and safety. ISO 45001 applies to all organizations irrespective of their size, industry and the nature of activity. Designed by a specialized committee of occupational health and safety (OHS) experts, this standard is based on a structure common to other management system standards such as ISO 14001 and ISO 9001. It also takes into account other international standards specific to its domain like the OHSAS 18001, the ILO-OSH main guidelines of the International Labor Organization, various national and international labor standards and conventions of the ILO. In short, the ISO 45001 defines the minimum Good Practice Standards for employee protection on a global scale.

What are the advantages of this standard for my organization?

ISO 45001 enables an organization to implement an occupational health and safety management system that helps achieve better risk management, improved performance in this domain and the implementation of effective policies and objectives.

Potential benefits resulting from the application of the standard include:

  • Reduction in the occurrence of undesirable incidents in the workplace.
  • Drop in absenteeism and in the rate of employee turnover, thus ensuring greater productivity.
  • Reduction of cost of insurance premiums.
  • Creation of a health and safety culture that encourages employees to play a more active role in safeguarding their own health and safety in the workplace.
  • Increased involvement of the management with a view to proactively improve performance in the field of occupational health and safety.
  • Improvement of the Organization’s image.
  • Boost of employee morale.

Differences between ISO 45001 and OHSAS 18001

Since its first publication in 1999 by the BSI (British Standard Institution), OHSAS 18001 has remained a recognized occupational health and safety management system standard based on which management systems can be evaluated and certified. Today, 19 years later, a new ISO standard replaces the OHSAS; it’s the ISO 45001.

The first difference concerns the structure. The ISO 45001 is based on the ISO Guide 83 that defines a high-level structure, text and common terms and definitions for management systems of the next generation (ISO 9001, ISO 14001, etc.). This structure aims at facilitating the implementation and integration of various management systems in a harmonious, structured and effective manner. The structure is as follows:

  1. Scope
  2. Normative references
  3. Terms and definitions
  4. Context of theOrganization
  5. Management
  6. Planning
  7. Support
  8. Operation
  9. Performance evaluation
  10. Improvement

To summarize, the ISO 45001 can be understood as a proactive global approach of the Organization that incorporates a safety culture. It is a framework that can promote the health and safety standards of your Organization to higher levels.

In the new ISO 45001 standard, greater emphasis is laid on the “Context of the Organization”. With the ISO 45001, organizations have to look beyond their own health and safety problems and focus on what the society expects of them, in terms of health and safety.

Some organizations that use the OHSAS 18001 delegate health and safety responsibilities to a safety officer instead of integrating the system into their operations. The ISO 45001 necessitates the integration of health and safety aspects into the global management system of the Organization, which in turn encourages the management to take on a greater leadership role as far as the health and safety management system is concerned.

ISO45001

ISO 45001:2018(fr) – Systèmes de management de la santé et de la sécurité au travail — Exigences et lignes directrices pour leur utilisation, Figure 1 : https://www.iso.org/obp/ui#iso:std:iso:45001:ed-1:v1:fr:fig:1

Identification and management of risks rather than hazard identification

The ISO 45001 lays emphasis on the identification and management of risks rather than hazard identification, as required by the OHSAS 18001.

The ISO 45001 follows a preventive process which requires hazard risks to be evaluated and corrected, as opposed to hazard management followed by OHSAS 18001. The new standard is thus more proactive than reactive. By adopting the ISO 45001 standard, your organization will find and identify potential risks before they cause accidents and injuries. Audits, work-related safety analysis and monitoring of work conditions will be essential in order to guarantee a proactive approach recommended by the ISO 45001 standard.

Procurement, including outsourced processes and subcontractors (8.1.4)

The ISO 45001 requires organizations to take into account the manner in which suppliers and business owners manage risks.

In the ISO 45001, certain fundamental concepts are modified, such as the risk, the worker and the workplace. There are also new term definitions such as: surveillance, measure, efficiency, performance and OHS process. The terms “document” and “record” have been replaced by the term “documented information” in the ISO 45001. The standard also stipulates that documented information should be maintained to the extent necessary to ensure that processes are carried out as planned.

Main changes in the ISO 45001

Operating environment:

Chapter 4.1, internal and external issues introduce new clauses for the determination and systematic monitoring of the operating environment.

Workers and other persons involved:

Chapter 4.2 lays emphasis on the needs and expectations of workers and other participants, as well as on the participation of workers. This helps to identify and systematically understand the factors that need to be managed through the management system.

Management of risks and opportunities:

Described in chapters 6.1.1, 6.1.2.3, 6.1.4, organizations should determine, take into account and if needed, take measures to manage risks and opportunities that are liable to have an impact (positive or negative) on the ability of the management system to achieve the expected results as well as its ability to improve the health and safety conditions in the workplace.

Management commitment and involvement:

As indicated in chapter 5.1, the ISO 45001 lays emphasis on the active participation and greater responsibility of the higher management for the efficiency of the management system. In the ISO 45001 standard, the involvement of the management is essential for the efficiency and the integration of the standard. The modification in the new standard tends towards managerial responsibility. The safety culture of the Organization should be supported by management’s participation with the workers, demonstrating a top-down approach. Instead of supervising the program, managers should be the real safety leaders. This signifies an active and participatory role for managers in the safety and Safety of the Organization. Workers’ protection and performance improvements are leadership roles in the framework of the new ISO 45001 standard.

Objectives and performance:

Greater emphasis on objectives as well as driving forces for improvement (chapters 6.2.1 to 6.2.2) and performance evaluation (chapter 9.1.1).

Extended requirements related to participation, consultation and involvement of workers (5.4):

Workers also participate more extensively under the new standard. Employees work with the management to implement a safety management system (SMS). The employees must undergo training and education to identify risks and help the Organization to create an effective safety program. Internal audits and risk assessment results should be shared on an open platform with workers that will encourage employee participation. According to the ISO 45001 standard, the management of safety is the responsibility of all the members of the Organization.

Communication (7.4):

More prescriptive as far as the “Mechanics” of communication is concerned, including the determination of what, when and how to communicate.

Despite these changes, the general objectives of the ISO 45001 remains the same as that of OHSAS 18001, which is to reduce unacceptable risks and ensure the safety and well-being of all the people involved in the activities of the Organization.

What about the certification?

ISO 45001 certification is not a requirement of the standard, but it may be useful to demonstrate your conformity to its requirements. If you are OHSAS 18001 certified, even though it is a very different standard, you already possess some of the tools and systems necessary for the implementation of the ISO 45001.

Where to begin?

If you are considering implementing the ISO 45001, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Conduct an analysis of the environment of your Organization relevant to occupational health and safety (for example, the participants) as well as internal and external factors likely to have an impact on your activities.
  • Establish an area of application of the system by taking into account the objectives that you wish to achieve with your management system.
  • Define your policy and your objectives in the field of occupational health and safety.
  • Set a timeframe within which you wish to implement your system and how you plan to get there.
  • Determine the skills and/or resource adjustments required before implementing the standard.

CONFORMiT services and technological solutions can support you in setting up, maintaining and upgrading your occupational health and safety management systems. Our experts are there to help you from the beginning to the end of your process.