The new international standard for occupational safety and health, ISO 45001, which went through a long and somewhat torturous development process, was finally published on March 12th.
According to the ISO, the new standard, which will replace OHSAS 18001, is the first global standard giving organisations “a universally accepted framework for improving employee health and safety, reducing workplace risks and creating healthier, safer workplace conditions”. Speaking about the new standard, IOSH’s head of policy and public affairs, Richard Jones, said it is great news.
ISO 45001 is based on the ISO’s Annex SL, the new high-level structure that brings a common framework to all standards. This will allow organisations to align their health and safety management system with other management systems, such as quality, environment and energy.
One of the new elements in ISO 450001 is the focus on leadership. The standard sets specific requirements for top management, requiring them to demonstrate leadership, commitment and to promote a positive health and safety culture. There is also an increased focus on worker involvement, which should fit in with the HSA’s focus on promoting the role of safety representatives. However, the ETUC has expressed concerns about the new standard, fearing it could lead to reduced levels of protection and a focus on certification, rather than real indicators of a strong safety system.
Speaking to HSR, Stephen Fulwell, of the Magnolia House Consultancy, who is well-known in Ireland for his role as a safety management auditor, says the new standard will, because of the SL base, allow health and safety to be aligned with other standards. The process, Fulwell says, will be an ongoing one which will promote continuous improvement. His experience is that senior management are buying into ISO 45001.