ISO 45001: Here’s What You Need to Know


ISO’s new standard, ISO 45001, has been created to help companies reduce work-related incidents, injuries, accidents, and illnesses. In particular, the standard is aimed at helping organizations add structure around managing health and safety, which will ultimately improve employee safety.

So what are the key things you need to know about this eagerly awaited, new standard?

To answer that question, we sat down with Sally Swingewood, Lead Programme Manager in the Governance & Resilience Sector at BSI, the UK’s national standards body, and Martin Cottam, Chair of the ISO Committee for occupational health and safety management.

Swingewood has more than 25 years of experience in publishing and management. She is responsible for building relationships with national and international experts and working with them to develop consensus-based standards, with a focus on quality management and OH&S management.

Cottam has more than 30 years of experience in engineering risk, quality, and process safety management across the major hazard industries, together with OHS management across a wide range of sectors. A member of the BSI Committee HS/1 since 1998, he was chair for five years and has now been appointed as chair of the international committee responsible for ISO 45001 and the development of related standards.

To date, BSI has helped over 80,000 clients worldwide adopt standards of best practice and turn them into habits of excellence.

Here’s what Swingewood and Cottam said safety leaders should know.

Why ISO 45001 Is So Important

ISO 45001 is the first global OH&S management system standard. It’s a milestone because it’s been developed with input from all types of industry, regulators, governments, and labor organizations from 70 participating countries. That’s a big step because all of these organizations—across a variety of perspectives—all came together and agreed on those standards.

“ISO 45001 is also fully aligned with such familiar and widely used standards as ISO 9001—quality—and ISO 14001—environment,” explains Cottam.

The new standard will help business leaders revise their way of thinking about health and safety in the workplace, in many cases. “Hopefully this will encourage every organization which sees value in adopting a systematic approach to managing quality, to recognize the benefit of adopting the same approach in respect of the health and safety of its workers,” says Cottam.

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What Managers Should Know if They Are New to ISO 45001

ISO 45001 uses the same core text and terms as other recently revised ISO management system standards. “As a result, if you are already acquainted with the common framework, then much of ISO 45001 will seem familiar to you,” says Swingewood.

And, it’s no secret that leaders play a key role in the implementation of any management system or safety program in an organization; this is no different with ISO 45001. “Visible and practical support for an OH&S management system is a powerful way for leaders to demonstrate their commitment to the health and safety of their fellow workers,” says Swingewood.

The plan-do-check-act framework that the standard provides gives leaders visibility of OH&S performance. It also ensures that improvement efforts are well-targeted, and that investment in OH&S is used efficiently and produces results.

“The framework can also provide leaders with a framework for maintaining awareness of its current, and any upcoming, legal obligations in respect of OH&S,” adds Swingewood.

How to Migrate From OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001

“ISO 45001 directs the interaction between an organization and its overall business environment in relation to health and safety, rather than concentrating  on just OH&S hazards and other internal issues as was the case with OHSAS 18001,” says Cottam.

Another key difference: ISO 45001 is outcome-based and OHSAS 18001 is more procedure-based. And, ISO 45001 considers both risk and opportunities whilst OHSAS 18001 deals more exclusively with risk.

Once that is understood, to start, Cottam and Swingewood suggest comparing the two standards carefully to understand all the differences. Keep in mind how ISO 45001 contains some requirements which were not included in OHSAS 18001, and vice versa.

This is how any “gaps” can be identified. “A plan can then be developed to design and implement any necessary changes to the system, and to monitor the effectiveness of their implementation.”

From there, Swingewood and Cottam explain that you can:

  • Take a deeper look at internal and external factors that might impact your organization’s business and decide how those risks will be controlled,
  • Ensure you set goals and define the scope of your system.
  • Establish processes, performance indicators and ways of reviewing performance .

How ISO 45001 Will Likely Be Used

ISO 45001 can be used by any organization, regardless of size or sector to develop a sound OH&S management system.

“It can also be used as the basis for a self-declaration of conformity by the organization itself, second party assessment by a customer or of a supplier, or independent third party certification,” says Swingewood.

Organizations that have never before implemented an ISO management system, or who see conformity to all of the requirements currently too daunting, can also use ISO 45001 as a framework to improve OH&S performance step by step. “The aim of this standard is to protect workers from injury and ill-health, so even partial use of the standard will bring results in terms of shaping a positive OH&S culture.”


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