A new ISO standard, ISO 45001, on occupational health and safety management system requirements is in gestation, with the intention to publish the standard in October 2016. The standard will be aligned with ISO 9001 (Quality Management) and ISO 14001 (Environmental Management), which are themselves undergoing revision and are due for publication in 2015.

The project committee responsible for the production of this work met for the first time in London between 21 and 25 October 2013 and produced its first working draft. There are at present approximately 50 countries and international organisations such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) involved in this work.

A draft for this standard has now been released and is available for you to purchase via the BSI website. Anyone wanting to comment has until 8 September to send a response.

The overall aim of the standard remains the same and those familiar with OHSAS 18001 will recognise many of the themes in the new ISO standard. However, there have been some very interesting developments related to the new rules for developing International Management System Standards. For example, there is now a much stronger focus on the “context” of an organisation as well as a stronger role for top management and leadership.

What is meant by the “context” of an organisation?

In the new standard, an organisation has to look beyond its immediate health and safety issues and take into account what the wider society expects of it. Organisations have to think about their contractors and suppliers as well as, for example, how their work might affect their neighbours in the surrounding area. This is much wider than just focusing on the conditions for internal employees and means organisations cannot just contract out risk.

And how is the role of the organisation’s leadership different?

Well, ISO 45001 insists that these occupational health and safety aspects now be embodied in the overall management system of the organisation, requiring a much stronger buy-in from its management and leadership. This will be a big change for users who may currently delegate responsibility to a safety manager rather than integrate this entirely into the organisation’s operations. ISO 45001 requires health and safety aspects to be part of an overall management system and no longer just an added extra. This follows other ISO standards such as 9001.

Why change an ISO standard?

There are a number of reasons for looking at this topic using the ISO system. Firstly, many organisations are already using a number of ISO management system standards, so an occupational health and safety tool that can be easily integrated into this makes things a lot easier. In particular, we have focused on easy integration with ISO 14001 as many organisations, especially small businesses, have one person that looks after both safety and environmental concerns. In addition, we hope that the ISO name and recognition will give further credibility to the standard and drive wider adoption.

There has been the involvement of a really wide variety of organisations and countries. Involvement from countries across the globe, from Europe and America, but also Africa, Asia and South America, will help to create a tool that will work for everyone. There has also been strong involvement from the ILO, who are experts on the topic and have some very valuable insights to bring to the table.

As globalisation continues this standard will allow global organisations to implement a common approach to safety management.

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