• What you need to know about ISO 45001 Feb 28, 2018
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    After five years of deliberation involving members from hundreds of countries, the latest occupational health & safety (OHS) framework, ISO 45001, has finally been approved. A three-year transition period will be enacted from March, allowing for businesses with and without older frameworks to register and migrate to the new standard.

    For those businesses currently using the British OHSAS 18001 standard - or those who have less understanding of the ISO standards and certification process - this may all be a bit baffling. Here then is a simple breakdown of the changes implemented by the switch to ISO 45001.

    What are ISO standards?

    ISO 45001 has been drafted by the International Organisation For Standardisation (ISO). ISO standards are designed to provide shared policy frameworks to organisations, helping them improve their own operational efficiency and efficacy in a number of different areas.

    Businesses around the globe use ISO standards to implement frameworks for quality control, information security, safety, energy efficiency and more. They are often implemented to satisfy tenders and acquire new supply chains, and are a requisite of many contracts.

    To be fully compliant with ISO standards, you have to gain certification. Gaining ISO certification ensures that your business is operating to certain well defined, globally relevant and extensively researched standards, helping you to succeed and to build trust with other businesses.

    What is ISO 45001?

    ISO 45001 is the first global OHS standard for organisations, drafted and implemented by the ISO after five years of discussion. It provides a universal framework - in other words, a set of rules and instructions - for all businesses concerned with their own occupational health & safety.

    As with most ISO standards, ISO 45001 can be implemented by businesses of any size, and ISO encourages all businesses to do so. It lays out a modern, responsive set of health & safety policies and approaches, designed to integrate into the core of the business’ objectives and meld with other standards.

    ISO 45001 is the first ever global safety standard, and has been specifically to supplant a number of local standards. For UK businesses, this means that it will replace the popular current standard, OHSAS 18001. Businesses currently applying this standard may require assistance to migrate to the new standard and to retrain employees.

    What does ISO 45001 change?

    ISO 45001 is designed to modernise a business’ approach to occupational health & safety, putting it at the core of overarching policy decisions. It utilises the Annex SL guideline to help integrate OHS with other standards, including quality and environmental management.

    ISO 45001 is based on the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) model, simplifying risk planning and accentuating the importance of reporting and minimising risks. It also shifts focus slightly to grant more importance to long term health issues, rather than more evident short term injuries.

    Worker wellness and wellbeing are given much more prominence as a key element of health & safety management. The delegation of OHS is also disincentivised, with C-suite and managers encouraged to take on responsibility for health & safety and integrate it into their business plans.

    Workers are also more involved with health & safety under ISO 45001. Workers and their representatives are actively involved in consultation and reporting, are engaged in controlling risks, and are given a more substantial role in dictating company policy on health & safety.

    The rights of workers have also been enhanced in the new framework. This includes the right of workers to identify risks and remove themselves from the situation without penalty, before reporting said risk to the organisation. The obligations of organisations to provide a safe working environment have also been enhanced.

    Finally, the burden of responsibility when it comes to breaches of H&S laws and guidelines has been clarified. This comes into particular focus with outsourcing, procurement and contractors, where the organisation should now be expected to demonstrate the control of risk.


    ISO 45001 is a rigorous but sensible standard, and its application has been hard fought. It is also a momentous occasion, however, marking the first time any such OHS standard has been accepted and applied globally. Safer businesses tend to be happier and more effective businesses, and the worldwide uptake of ISO 45001 should ultimately be good news for everyone.

    Lee Sadd is a senior trainer at health & safety consultant and training provider SAMS Ltd. SAMS is a leading provider of online safety courses and classroom courses in the Kent area, as well as offering business advisory services and event management solutions around the UK.
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