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01 March 2018
Health and Safety

A New Standard which affects almost everyone: ISO 45001


An organisation is responsible for ensuring that it minimises the risk of harm to the people that may be affected by its activities (e.g. its workers, its managers, contractors, or visitors), and particularly if they are engaged by the organisation to perform those activities as part of their “occupation”. There were, according to an estimate by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), 2.78 million deaths per year as a result of work activities. The greatest majority are associated with health issues, as opposed to injuries. The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, IOSH, estimates there are 660,000 deaths a year as a result of cancers arising from work activities.

ISO has developed an occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system standard (ISO 45001) and the  intended outcome of the standard is to enable organisations to manage their OH&S risks and improve their OH&S performance. The implementation of an OH&S management system will be a strategic decision for an organisation that can be used to support its sustainability initiatives, ensuring people are safer and healthier and increase profitability at the same time. An organisation’s activities can pose a risk of injury or ill-health, and can result in a serious impairment of health, or even fatality, to those working on its behalf; consequently, it is important for the organisation to eliminate or minimise its OH&S risks by taking appropriate preventive measures. An organisation’s OH&S management system can translate its intentions to prevent incidents into a systematic and ongoing set of processes (supported by the use of appropriate methods and tools) and can reinforce the organisation’s commitment to proactively improving its OH&S performance.

It is logical that those working closest to an OH&S risk will be knowledgeable about it. As such, the participation of workers in the establishment, implementation and maintenance of an OH&S management system plays an important role in ensuring that the risks are managed effectively. ISO 45001 emphasises the need for worker participation in the functioning of an OH&S management system, as well as requiring that an organisation ensures that its workers are competent to do their assigned tasks safely.


What is ISO 45001?


ISO 45001 is an International Standard that specifies requirements for an occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system, with guidance for its use, to enable an organisation to proactively improve its OH&S performance in preventing injury and ill-health. ISO 45001 is intended to be applicable to any organisation regardless of its size, type and nature. All of its requirements are intended to be integrated into an organisation’s own management processes. ISO 45001 enables an organisation, through its OH&S management system, to integrate other aspects of health and safety, such as worker wellness/wellbeing; however, it should be noted that an organisation can be required by applicable legal requirements to also address such issues.   


What ISO 45001 is NOT... 

ISO 45001 does not state specific criteria for OH&S performance, nor is it prescriptive about the design of an OH&S management system. An organisation’s OH&S management system should be specific to meeting its own needs in preventing injuries and ill-health; consequently, a small business with low risks may only need to implement a relatively simple system, whereas a large organisation with high levels of risks may need a more sophisticated management system. ISO 45001 does not specifically address issues such as product safety, property damage or environmental impacts, and an organisation is not required to take account of these issues unless they present a risk to its stakeholders. ISO 45001 is not intended to be a legally binding document, it is a management tool for voluntary use by organisations as a way of implementing an OH&S management system that meets international best practice.


What will be the benefits of implementing ISO 45001?


An ISO 45001 based OH&S management system will enable an organisation to improve its OH&S performance by:

  • developing and implementing an OH&S policy and OH&S objectives
  • establishing systematic processes which consider its “context” and which take into account its risks and opportunities, and its legal and other requirements
  • determining the hazards and OH&S risks associated with its activities; seeking to eliminate them, or putting in controls to minimise their potential effects
  • establishing operational controls to manage its OH&S risks and its legal and other requirements
  • increasing awareness of its OH&S risks
  • evaluating its OH&S performance and seeking to improve it, through taking appropriate actions
  • ensuring workers take an active role in OH&S matters


In combination these measures will ensure that an organisation’s reputation as a safe place to work will be promoted, and can have more direct benefits, such as:

  • improving its ability to respond to regulatory compliance issues
  • reducing the overall costs of incidents
  • reducing downtime and the costs of disruption to operations
  • reducing the cost of insurance premiums
  • reducing absenteeism and employee turnover rates
  • recognition for having achieved an international benchmark (which may in turn influence customers who are concerned about their social responsibilities).


Who are the intended users of the Standard?

The simple answer is ALL organisations.

It should not matter if your organisation is a micro business, or a global conglomerate; if it is a non-profit organisation, a charity, an academic institution, or a government department. As long as your organisation has people working on its behalf, or who may be affected by its activities, then using a systematic approach to managing health and safety will bring benefits to it. The standard can be used by small low risk operations equally as well as by high risk and large complex organisations. While the standard requires that OH&S risks are addressed and controlled, it also takes a risk based approach to the OH&S management system itself, to ensure a) that it is effective and b) being improved to meet an organisation’s ever changing “context”. This risk based approach is consistent with the way organisations manage their other “business” risks and hence encourages the integration of the standard’s requirements into organisations’ overall management processes.


How does ISO 45001 relate to other standards?


ISO 45001 follows the high-level structure approach that is being applied to other ISO management system standards, such as ISO 9001 (quality) and ISO 14001 (environment). In developing the standard, consideration has been given to the content of other international standards (such as OHSAS 18001 or the International Labour Organisation’s “ILO –OSH Guidelines”) and national standards (e.g. AS/NZS 4801:2001), as well as to the ILO’s International Labour standards and conventions. Those adopting the standard, once it has been published, should find its requirements consistent with the other standards. This will allow for a relatively easy transition from using an existing OH&S management system standard to using ISO 45001, and will also allow for the alignment and integration with the requirements of other ISO management system standards into their organisation’s overall management processes.


When will it be available?

Expected publication date of the ISO 45001 is 12 March 2018 and it can be purchased from SAI Global


What if my organisation is certified to AS/NZS 4801:2001 and/or OHSAS 18001 ?


OHSAS 18001 will be withdrawn on publication of ISO 45001 and organisations currently certified to OHSAS 18001 will have a three-year period to migrate to ISO 45001.

The principles, standards and practices integrated into ISO 45001 effectively reduce the potential risks of employee loss, employee claims, and regulatory action. Furthermore, this standard was developed to align with other popular ISO systems and replace AS/NZS 4801. Australian and New Zealand can easily and effectively adapt to a multitude of standards as necessary to comply with specific client requirements.

 ISO 45001 enables new methodology for:

  • Increased involvement by workers as well as leadership
  • Better control of all associated employee/employer risk factors
  • Improved processes for identifying operational hazards and risks
  • Better methods for control, minimization and/or elimination of operational risk factors
  • Advanced pathways for managing legal documentation and expectations
  • Successful monitoring and measurement of on-site and off-site processes
  • Improved methods for ensuring worker involvement in OHS implementation and compliance
  • and much more.

Here is how New Zealand and Australian company leadership can reap the benefits of this new global ISO solution:

  • Incorporate applied OHS performance into the strategic planning process
  • Develop a pro-active OHS management system
  • Establish an organisational respect toward matters pertaining to ISO
  • Support employee contributions toward all functions of OHS
  • Communicate the importance of efficient OHS management and compliance
  • Designate members of top management as the face accountable for ISO 45001 compliance, policies, and practices.

As Compliance Council, we strongly believe that transitioning doesn’t have to be a headache. For this reason, we’ve designed an efficient 3-Step Transition Process so businesses can update their certification with as little stress as possible.

Contact us to have a smooth & hassle-free transition and more information.


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