New international standard for occupational health and safety management launched

new international standardThe standard is applicable for all workers, irrespective of their occupation. (Image source: Shutterstock)The first global standard for occupational health and safety management, ISO 45001, has been published

Occupational health and safety management – requirements with guidance for use ( ISO 45001) was created to address the global need to improve work related health and safety of workers – over two million of whom die each year from work-related incidents and an even higher number from occupational health issues. Led by the UK, the new international standard was developed with input from over 70 countries across five continents.  

ISO 45001 specifies requirements for creating an occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system, with interpretation guidance to enable an organisation to improve OH&S performance in the workplace. The requirements in the standard are applicable to all organisations, irrespective of size or activity and the standard is applicable for all workers, irrespective of their occupation. 

Rather than see OH&S as a necessary burden, ISO 45001 encourages an organisation to see OH&S as an investment in their success. The standard uses risk-based thinking throughout to minimise negative outcomes, and emphasises that workers closest to a particular risk should be involved in the decision-making process. By managing risks and embracing the opportunity to improve OH&S performance, organisations create the environment for a healthier, safer and more engaged workforce. 

ISO 45001 has a strong emphasis on leadership and requires senior management to actively demonstrate commitment to OH&S. There is also a focus on the participation and consultation of workers in making sure that the OH&S management system covers what needs to be covered and is communicated effectively to everyone involved. One of the goals during the development of this standard was to encourage a culture of openness around OH&S, says the British Standards Institute (BSI).

Marc Barnes, Australia and New Zealand managing director at BSI, said, “ISO 45001 is about protecting workers at all levels of an organisation. From the Saturday part-timer on a zero-hours contract to the chief executive of an international conglomerate, this global standard was designed for the good of the organisation and everyone who works for it.

“Occupational health and safety management doesn’t have to mean more paperwork and more red tape – on the contrary, ISO 45001 was created to make it easier for organisations to create and maintain a safe and healthy working environment for all. OH&S impacts every organisation, irrespective of how big it is, the sector or where in the world it is located. As such, ISO 45001 is relevant to an organisation with ten workers or a hundred thousand.”

Richard Jones, head of Policy and Public Affairs at the Institution of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH), commented, “ISO 45001 can enhance the drive towards a safe and healthy world of work. Having an agreed international standard can help ensure consistency and encourage much-needed solutions to the myriad of safety and health risks that exist in workplaces around the globe.

“Any organisation seeking to improve its OSH management can adopt the principles of ISO 45001, whether or not they seek certification. And of course, certification is only the start of an ongoing continual improvement process and not an end. It’s about ensuring real culture change, effective action and OSH competence across organisations.”

ISO 45001 replaces the British Standard OHSAS 18001; existing users of OHSAS 18001 have three years to transition to the new international standard. ISO 45001 aligns with other key international standards such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 for quality management and environmental management respectively. 


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