The Latest on ISO 45001

  • ISO 45001

Last year, OHSAS 18001’s replacement – ISO 45001 – had its first draft issued. With the standard becoming truly international, there are new parties involved in its creation, so differences of opinion were anticipated. This proved to be the case with the ISO 45001 draft not being widely approved and, consequently, it was instead handed back to the standard’s Working Group to release a second draft.

Time for change

Shockingly, over 2.2m workers lose their lives every year from accidents and disease. In the UK alone, more than 26 million working days are lost due to work related illnesses and injuries. As a result, there is global demand for best practice standards to aid improvements in health and safety and to demonstrate ethical business behaviour.

OHSAS 18001 has grown to become a popular way of demonstrating management of health and safety risks. However, with 40 international versions currently in use, there isn’t continuity in how it is used, unlike with an internationally recognised ISO standard.

With the likes of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 being revised, the opportunity has arisen for OHSAS to be welcomed into the ISO family and modernised for better integration with other management standards.

The new ISO 45001 standard is being developed with input from more than 50 countries, and as well as ISO themselves, the International Labour Organization (ILO) have been involved in its creation.

ISO 45001 vs OHSAS 18001

Current users of OHSAS 18001 shouldn’t fear, ISO 45001 will not be changing things beyond recognition. In fact, the new standard will have common definitions and terms alongside the other ISO management standards, making life easier. Moreover, there will be a reduction in bureaucracy and the management system will be easier to maintain.

ISO 45001 will require an organisation to look beyond its immediate health and safety issues and take into account wider society’s expectations. Organisations will have to think about their contractors and suppliers, as well as the effects their activities have on neighbouring communities.

This standard provides the specification for formal, systematic analysis and management of risk, management of regulatory compliance, promotion of safer work practices, and evaluation of occupational health and safety performance. The outcome? Less incidents, and less disruption.

The draft standard suggests ISO 45001 will place more emphasis on risk management and ongoing assessment of risks and opportunities to prevent, or reduce, undesired effects. There is also a strengthening of the requirement to demonstrate and understand compliance status at all times.

There has been demand from a number of employee-focused organisations seeking to see stronger requirements relating to the degree employee participation is embedded into the new standard. As this would inevitably enhance the value derived from the standard, this can be no bad thing.

ISO 45001 will certainly adopt the Annex SL structure which will improve compatibility between all of  management standards; good news for those with multiple standards in place. With the intention of improving buy-in and engagement, there will be a stronger role to be played by top-management when implementing the standard too.

The development timeline

Whether it’s a new standard, or revision to an existing one, the process is similar. There are enough draft stages in order to give interested parties (from trade bodies, to direct users) the opportunity to voice their opinion. It’s then up to the designated Working Group to review votes and comments and make changes as necessary.

Back in 2013, it was muted that 2016 would be the launch date of the new ISO 45001 standard. The next important step – the international draft – is expected this April. The final draft is then planned for June 2016, followed by publication of the completed ISO 45001 standard in October 2016. These timeframes are all subject to comments and subsequent changes being made.

Organisations currently certified to OHSAS 18001 will not need to make the transition to ISO 45001 immediately. Closer to final publication, we will work with clients to ensure a smooth transition. It is not recommended to begin work with any draft versions of the standard.

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Written by Lee Styles

HSMS Scheme Manager - Company expert for 'Occupational Health and Safety' Standards; OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001. Additional assessment expertise for the following standards; ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 27001.