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Because Health & Safety is everyone’s business: ISO 45001

In March 2018, amidst the worst snowfalls the UK has yet seen, a keenly awaited new standard was published. ISO 45001:2018 is the world’s first International Standard for Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S), and replaces its British predecessor OHSAS 18001.

Why the change?

An international standard was needed, to address working conditions, workplace injury and fatality across the globe. Though OHSAS 18001 had international application, the standard was essentially a British one. In stark contrast, some 70 countries have worked together in the creation of ISO 45001, in a concerted effort to make the standard applicable anywhere, and in any sector.

What are the differences between the two?

According to the late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, “great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” Interestingly, it’s this core belief in contribution and shared responsibility that keeps popping up throughout the revisions.

Shared responsibility and context

A helpful new structure

The new structure is based on ISO Guide 83 (or Annex SL) which lays down a generic template for all new standards. As a result, organisations who’ve worked towards ISO 9001, 14001 and others will be on familiar territory. Implementation will in turn be easier, and the new standard will slot into the suite of existing standards more efficiently. The structure will give a head start to all companies who’ve made an effort to achieve certification already.

An active, rather than passive approach

The semantics have changed a bit in the new standard too, and the slight change speaks volumes. While OHSAS talked about ‘hazard control’, the new standard uses the term ‘hazard risks’. Under the new standard, companies will find and prevent hazard risks before they cause incidents, rather than control them later. It’s a proactive rather than reactive approach that underlines the focus on collective responsibility. Unsurprisingly, the definitions of ‘worker’, ‘workplace’, ‘monitoring’ and other terms are tweaked to reflect the fact that OH&S is everyone’s job, wherever they are.

In a nutshell

ISO 45001 is great news for anyone who already holds certification in the core management standards. It’s a pre-emptive standard that urges the whole workforce to keep their eyes and ears open and gives them a voice in the Health & Safety culture of their own working environment. It’s a standard that will make management roll up their sleeves and truly prioritise their workers’ safety. And lastly, it’s a standard that places businesses into their community, their country, and in their supplier network, and urges them to be mindful of all of them.


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