Australian businesses may need to transition to the new OHS standard ISO 45001

In 2015, two of the most implemented ISO standards (ISO 9001 and ISO 14001) were updated to significantly new and uniform versions. In 2016 OHS standards are undergoing the same transformation. With this change, OHSAS 18001 and AS 4801 safety management systems will need to be certified to a new Standard: ISO 45001.

Over 70 countries have been involved in the creation of ISO 45001, which has been approved as a draft international standard and is expected to be published in June 2017, with a three-year transition period to follow.

If your organisation is currently certified to AS 4801 or OHSAS 18001, you can maintain that certification throughout the transition period but be prepared for the need to migrate to ISO 45001 to remain certified once the timeframes have been finalised.

Why a new standard and not just a new revision?

Apart from integrating much more smoothly with all the other “new Annex SL format” ISO standards, ISO 45001 has specifically been created with the aim to set new standards for worker and workplace safety.

It attempts to transcend the current way organisations understand and manage their OHS requirements and approaches to best practice. The focus has shifted from safety in the immediate workplace, to a more global view, requiring organisations to consider the wider implications for their communities and society as a whole. It is a completely different approach to risk and to the involvement of stakeholders than in the previous standards, and it means that for ISO 45001 certified organisations, safety is now everyone’s responsibility, not just the domain of the OHS rep and Worksafe.

What are the main changes between AS4801/ OHSAS18001 and the new ISO45001?

We’ve already mentioned the change of focus, from local to global, and there are a number of other changes that organisations will need to make.

Approach to risk:

ISO45001 electrical contractors

One of the most important (and arguably beneficial) changes is in the approach to risk. Where an OHSAS 18001 safety management system includes hazard identification, ISO 45001 looks at improvement, risk evaluation and opportunity. In effect, the focus moves from spotting and handling workplace hazards to foresight, looking for opportunities to improve safety and manage risk even when no current hazard has been identified. It’s a move to a preventative approach rather than a reactive one.

Stakeholder expectations: The other key difference between the two standards is the new approach to understanding and responding to the needs and expectations of stakeholders. Stakeholders can be anyone involved with the work or impacted by it, so that covers the broad spectrum of employees, suppliers, contractors and the community. This moves the organisation away from the compliance for its own sake and towards consideration of who is implicated by decisions around safety.

Worker participation: The standard requires the participation of workers in the development, implementation and maintenance of the organisation’s occupational health and safety management system. It acknowledges that the people doing the job are the people with the best understanding of the possible dangers in the system, and the best people to come up with an alternative.

Planning specifics: This standard isn’t prescriptive, because no one system will suit every organisation’s needs. Each organisation is to develop its own OHS management system, specific to meeting its own needs in preventing workplace injury. However, ISO 45001 does lay down guidelines for such things as hazard identification and risk, so each organisation is alerted to those issues. There is also a requirement, as there is with the other new revisions of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, that organisations be able to justify the approach they have taken based on an understanding of risk and in alignment with the strategic direction and objectives that have been set. Management will need to be able to talk to their thinking around these decisions and to show evidence of measurable results against criteria.

Outsourcing: ISO 45001 also places emphasis on the increasing trend to outsource work, and the need to put controls in place both for day-to-day operation as well as for emergency situations in or out of the country.

Why take a global view of safety?

The thinking behind a global safety standard is that today’s business world takes advantage of technology to source the best products, suppliers and workers from around the world. Our businesses are no longer responsible solely for the workers in our local offices or factories.

ISO 45001 helps protect overseas workers

The reach, and therefore the responsibility, is now much bigger than that, so we need to look beyond a local standard towards a standard that is applicable, for example, to our use of contractors and suppliers no matter where they are geographically located. ISO 45001 attempts to provide a systematic approach to risk analysis and management, the development and introduction of safer work practices, the process for assessing compliance and a way to evaluate OHS performance.

Because the standard applies around the world, it is hoped that it will be easier for organisations to manage worker safety even if they are located in different countries and under different jurisdiction as ISO 45001 provides a benchmark that will be accepted around the world.

Who benefits from the change to ISO45001?

Well, in theory, everyone from worker to community should benefit from this new standard…. Workplace accidents and deaths have the potential to be reduced (perhaps one day largely eliminated) if organisations can embrace the more preventative and risk based approaches the standard offers. Consumers can choose to shop with an organisation, knowing that even if they are sourcing suppliers overseas, that they are providing a safe and responsible environment for those workers.

ISO 45001 also thinks local- containing the requirement that local community be considered and not put at risk by a company’s workplace practices. A business with a strong reputation in the community for being ethical, responsible and sustainable will arguably find it easier to gain and maintain the loyalty of customers both in the local community and beyond.

Specifically, ISO 45001 will provide a framework for all organisations to identify and manage OHS risks, minimise the risk of workplace accidents, improve workplace safety, and measure compliance from each provider in their business systems, local or overseas.

The standard is built on the new Annex SL format, which means an ISO safety management system will integrate easily with other key standards such as QMS ISO 9001:2015 and EMS ISO 14001:2015, for smoother management of workplace quality and risk management. For example, ISO 45001 can be seamlessly integrated with ISO 14001 to establish a streamlined HSE management system.

Need more information about how to transition across to ISO 45001?

For a no-obligation chat to our Health and Safety Consultants / WHS Consultants about the new standard and how it applies to you, please contact us through the website or give us a call on 1300 132 745.

At Integrated Compliance Solutions, our expert consultants can assist your business in completing an ISO gap analysis, ISO 9001 internal audit, ISO internal audit and ISO audit. For more information, get in touch with us today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *