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First draft of ISO's occupational health and safety standard now available

by Katie Bird on

ISO 45001, which sets requirements for occupational health and safety management systems, has now reached Committee Draft stage.

This draft standard, inspired by the well-known OHSAS 18001, is designed to help companies and organizations around the world ensure the health and safety of the people who work for them.

We asked David Smith, Chairman of the committee developing the standard, to tell us more.

Can you tell us about some of the major differences between OHSAS 18001 and the new ISO 45001?

Well, obviously, the overall aim of the standard remains the same and those familiar with OHSAS 18001 will recognize many of the themes in the new ISO standard. However, there have been some very interesting developments related to the new rules for developing International Management System Standards (for more information, see Annex SL of the ISO Directives). For example, there is now a much stronger focus on the “context” of an organization as well as a stronger role for top management and leadership.

David Smith, Chairman of project commitee ISO/PC 283, Occupational health and safety management systems.

What do you mean by the “context” of an organization?

In the new standard, an organization has to look beyond its immediate health and safety issues and take into account what the wider society expects of it. Organizations have to think about their contractors and suppliers as well as, for example, how their work might affect their neighbours in the surrounding area. This is much wider than just focusing on the conditions for internal employees and means organizations cannot just contract out risk.

And how is the role of the organization's leadership different?

Well, ISO 45001 insists that these occupational health and safety aspects now be embodied in the overall management system of the organization, requiring a much stronger buy-in from its management and leadership. This will be a big change for users who may currently delegate responsibility to a safety manager rather than integrate this entirely into the organization’s operations. ISO 45001 requires health and safety aspects to be part of an overall management system and no longer just an added extra.

OHSAS 18001 is a widely adopted standard and has been very successful. Why are we developing an ISO standard?

There are a number of reasons for looking at this topic using the ISO system. Firstly, many organizations are already using a number of ISO management system standards, so an occupational health and safety tool that can be easily integrated into this makes things a lot easier. In particular, we have focused on easy integration with ISO 14001 as many organizations, especially small businesses, have one person that looks after both safety and environmental concerns. In addition, we hope that the ISO name and recognition will give further credibility to the standard and drive wider adoption.

However, one of the really fantastic things about this ISO project has been the involvement of a really wide variety of organizations and countries. I was involved in the first meeting leading to OHSAS 18001 over 20 years ago, and so it is personally really exciting for me to see today the sheer number of countries actively involved in the standard’s development. Involvement from countries across the globe, from Europe and America, but also Africa, Asia and South America, will help us to create a tool that will work for everyone. We have also had strong involvement from the International Labour Organization (ILO), who are experts on the topic and have some very valuable insights to bring to the table.

Of course, with this many stakeholders, the development work isn’t always easy and there are disagreements. But to have so many people involved has been wonderful and gives me hope that we are on track to providing a tool that can be used by any organization, within any regulatory framework, in any country.

So for any new users out there, can you tell us more about the major benefits of using this standard?

If you implement the system and structure we suggest, and do it properly, you can reduce the risk of causing harm to the people working for you. According to ILO statistics published this year, around 2.3 million died as a result of work-related accidents or diseases (ill health) in 2013. These are shocking statistics and a heavy burden for society. Implementing a strong occupational health and safety management system helps organizations reduce accidents and ill health, avoid costly prosecutions, perhaps even reduce insurance costs, as well as create a culture of positivity in the organization when its people see that their needs are being taken into account.

Want a sneak preview of ISO 45001?

The committee draft version of ISO 45001 can now be purchased, giving you the opportunity to find out more about the contents of the new standard before the final publication date, set for late 2016.

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