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ISO gives thumbs up to occupational health and safety work

by Elisabeth Gasiorowski on
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ISO has just approved the creation of a new project committee to develop an International Standard for occupational health and safety (OH&S).

The much-awaited standard will provide governmental agencies, industry, and other affected stakeholders with effective, usable guidance for improving worker safety in countries around the world. The work will be overseen by ISO Project Committee (PC) 283, Occupational health and safety management systems - Requirements.

According to ILO statistics, 6 300 people die every day as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases - more than 2.3 million deaths per year. 317 million accidents occur on the job annually; many of these resulting in extended absences from work. Many such accidents can be prevented, and the future ISO standard will provide, for the first time, an international framework for OH&S best practice and, in so doing, reduce work-related accidents, injuries and diseases worldwide.

The secretariat of ISO/PC 283 has been assigned to BSI, the British Standards Institution, and its first meeting is expected to be held on 21-25 October 2013 in London, United Kingdom. The ISO project committee will be tasked with transforming OHSAS 18001 (the OH&S management system requirements) into an ISO standard.

Secretary of ISO/PC 283 Charles Corrie comments: "The economic burden of poor occupational safety and health practices is estimated at 4 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product each year, according to ILO. Employers face costly early retirements, loss of skilled staff, absenteeism, and high insurance premiums due to work-related accidents and diseases. The future ISO standard has the potential to improve occupational health and safety management on a global level."

The ISO project committee will bring together experts and interested stakeholders in OH&S management. The committee's job will be to develop a standard following the generic management system approaches pioneered by the likes of ISO 9001:2008 for quality management or ISO 14001:2004 for environmental management and since applied to other objectives.

"Creating a safe work environment is critical to the success of any business, and is one of the best ways to attract/retain staff and maximize productivity. Though it's still in its infancy, the future ISO standard will provide businesses around the world with a strong foundation to achieve long-term success," further notes Charles Corrie.