All change for safety and ISO 45001

1st April 2018

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Richard Clarke uses his experience of international standards to shed some light on the upcoming ISO 45001 for managers.

With the new international health and safety standard, accredited companies will have up to three years to migrate from OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001. For those environmental managers who have already transitioned to ISO 9001 and 14001, much of this process will be familiar, with the standard moving to the Annex SL higher level common structure.

A new structure

By basing common elements on the Annex SL structure, greater ease of integration will be possible. It is likely that methods such as a PESTLE analysis will have laid the groundwork for safety scoping.

At the same time, senior managers should already be familiar with the extended requirements of Annex SL in relation to demonstration of top-level commitment, with only minor changes needed to include safety management.

Risks versus hazards

Where 14001 managers will be familiar with the idea of risk and opportunity in the environmental standard, the situation is less clear in 45001. With risk defined in Annex SL as the effect of uncertainty, the ISO committee have had to juggle linguistically with safety risks as understood through the risk assessment process. Within the standard, therefore, safety risks as identified through risk assessments are referred to as ‘hazards’ to distinguish from risks to the fulfilment of safety management system objectives.

However, failure to manage a known safety hazard would become a system risk in terms of the policy-level commitments to eliminate hazards. Confusion with these terminologies is likely, so care will need to be taken in writing procedures and communicating and training staff, particularly where they will participate in risk and hazard assessment activities.

Where the standard differs from OHSAS 18001, other than the requirements arising from Annex SL, the changes may well look familiar to safety managers. These changes include many elements that are already present in UK law as core legal safety requirements, and therefore already being addressed to ensure legal compliance.

Worker participation

The biggest change in the standard in relation to worker participation is, predictably, one that caused much debate and redrafting during development.

For many organisations, worker participation is an intrinsic part of their safety management culture, yet such collaborative arrangements are likely to have developed organically with the development of the safety management system, rather than being led by specific requirements within the standard.

The new requirements set out where worker consultation and participation should be emphasised, including:

  • Consultations on the establishment of policy and safety objectives
  • Determination of controls for outsourcing, contractors and planning and implementation of audit programmes
  • Participation in hazard assessment
  • Assessments of risks and opportunities
  • Identifying competency requirements
  • Designing control measures, and
  • Investigations of incidents and non-conformities.

Engagement is vital

While many safety professionals would agree that consultation and participation are key factors in any safety management system as well as in the corporate safety culture, elements of these requirements will demand a more representative approach to safety assessment, planning and implementation than is the case under 18001.

Without senior management engagement, delivery to an auditable standard may pose difficulties.

Migration to the new standard will require careful planning, but represents an opportunity for organisations to move their safety culture to the next level, increasing participation across the organisation, delivering enhanced legal compliance, and setting the bar with top‑level management engagement.


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