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Spotlight on Legislation: Understanding ISO 45001

With the somewhat disturbing news that the death toll associated with occupational accidents has reached 2.3 million annually, the imminent arrival of ISO 45001 hails a new chapter in the landscape of global Health and Safety standards. Adding the final leg to the triumvirate of international standards, ISO 45001 looks to bring Health and Safety in line with its Environmental and Quality Management cousins. Here we take a look at what the new ISO legislation means for the wider industry…

Currently out for approval, ISO 45001 provides a pure ‘Health and Safety’ equivalent to ISO 9001 (Quality) and ISO 14001 (Environmental), that aims to bring issues of occupational safety and health well and truly into focus. Prepared initially by a committee of international members (collectively known as ‘ISO PC 283’), ISO 45001 is the brainchild of a number of the world’s leading Health & Safety authorities, including NEBOSH and IOSH.

For whatever reason, Health & Safety has found itself decidedly at the bottom of the pile when it comes to priorities for high level governing legislation; but recent changes to CDM and now ISO mean that for many, it’s firmly back in the spotlight. Of course, achieving ISO accreditation status in any guise is a major achievement for any organisation, and whilst the audit process can be rigorous, ISO status is a globally recognised stamp of compliance at the highest level. Building on the framework of OHSAS 18001, this new standard in Health and Safety represents far more ‘humanitarian’ benefits than that of its predecessor. Requiring a brand new element of ‘self-evaluation’, the new ISO standard also demands an audit and exploration of a business’ own ‘responsible’ sourcing when it comes to the procurement of products and services; something which should offer partners, employees and business associates alike some extra peace of mind when it comes to matters of ‘corporate conscience’. 

For organisations already working closely to OHSAS 18001 standards, the transition to ISO 45001 is anticipated to be a relatively smooth one, as the new legislation looks to build on a substantial proportion of existing standards and processes. With an estimated 27 countries globally boasting over 90,000 organisations already with OHS certification, a three year ‘transition’ window has been proposed to allow for these organisations to embrace this new set of standards. 

Whilst for some countries, such as the USA –  whose current approach to Health & Safety is more ‘pure compliance’ as opposed to risk management based – the move towards embracing the new ISO standards is undoubtedly going to be challenging, the end of goal of improved global standards in OHS is widely regarded as more than worth it. Ultimately, drawing up new ISO standards is about more than an exercise in yet more legislation for an already regulated industry, it’s about reimagining occupational health and safety as integral to business processes; not just as a bolt on. 

ISO 45001 represents a push for true integration, and a significant step towards corporate synergy across the three key areas of quality, health & safety and environmental. Whilst it’s impossible to predict what the ultimate success of its arrival will be, with over a million organisations already subscribed to ISO standards globally, the outlook is positive.  

Spotlight on health & safety
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