It has the potential to change working conditions around the world. It’s poised to save millions of lives and billions of dollars. It’s been described as “the most significant safety standard of the past 50 years.”
I’m referring to ISO 45001, the first international occupational health and safety standard. Whether this is your first time learning about ISO 45001 or you’ve been wondering about implementing the new standard at your organization, here’s what you need to know:
What Is ISO 45001?
ISO 45001 is a set of occupational health and safety guidelines any organization can use to better protect workers and minimize the risks associated with unsafe working conditions.
The standard was developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in conjunction with workforce safety professionals from more than 70 countries. According to ISO, the new standard “provides a framework to increase safety, reduce workplace risks, and enhance health and well-being at work, enabling an organization to proactively improve its [occupational health and safety] performance.”
ISO 45001 replaces OHSAS 18001, an earlier standard that was developed in the UK and used in lieu of an “official” international EHS standard. Several countries, including the US, are currently transitioning to ISO 45001, with a deadline of March 2021.
Is ISO 45001 Mandatory?
Technically speaking, ISO 45001 is not mandatory. Rather, it’s a set of guidelines you should follow if you want to ensure employee health and safety. Think of it as a collection of best practices and recommendations from EHS experts.
That said, for many organizations, ISO 45001 is already or will soon become essentially mandatory. Industry groups, regulators, and consumers will expect to see your organization aligned with the ISO 45001 standard—at least in practice, if not necessarily in name. In other words, to avoid trouble, you should adopt as many elements of ISO 45001 as possible.
What Are the Benefits of Using ISO 45001?
ISO 45001 allows your organization to take a proactive approach to EHS. Instead of responding to incidents as they occur, you can stop them from happening in the first place.
EHS Today describes it as follows (emphasis added):
“The positive impact on corporate culture includes a transformation from correction-mode to prevention mode. ISO 45001 allows for improved management oversight, addition of a measurable Key Performance Indicator (KPI), demonstration of due diligence and demonstrations of achieving key initiatives in continuous improvement.”
In addition to reducing injuries and saving lives, this transformation presents numerous ancillary benefits. To name a few, via EHS Today:
- Lower probability of potential civil and criminal liability
- Creation of new tools to provide significant ROI
- Positive impact on corporate culture
- Improved production and quality
- Increased profitability resulting in enhanced competitiveness
- Increased ability to meet legal and regulatory requirements and avoid governmental penalties
What Does It Take to Implement ISO 45001 at Your Organization?
Depending on where you are today, transitioning to ISO 45001 may require anything from a few tweaks to a complete overhaul of your EHS program.
Here are 5 steps to get started, as recommended by the American Society of Safety Professionals:
- Understand the purpose and benefits of ISO 45001.
- Examine any system or standards you already have in place.
- Engage with organizational leadership and other stakeholders on workplace health and safety objectives.
- Determine organizational priorities and goals.
- Create or update your organization’s EHS program.
At KPA, our team of experts can work alongside you to establish an EHS program that meets and exceeds the new ISO 45001 standard. For years, we’ve been helping organizations of all sizes transform their safety cultures and take proactive approaches to worker health and safety. Discover what we can do for you.