For a variety of reasons, the industrial and manufacturing world is seeing much more regulation in regards to conventional operations. In particular, many safety and protection guidelines have been put in place to protect workers in the field.
One of those guidelines — a standard, actually — is ISO 45001. It was developed and is currently supported by the International Standards Organization, better known as ISO. Over 60 countries participated in the standard’s creation, which is also referred to as the global Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems standard (OHSMS).
ISO 45001 is a guideline for health and safety management systems that enables a consistent standard, internationally, within the supply chain, and helps to establish better safety and protections in the average workplace. It is so impactful that some countries may define it as a regulation and plan to enforce compliance.
It sounds positive, but it poses a serious question for the business world. What does this standard actually mean, and what changes must be made as a result? Additionally, why should the average business care? Are there any benefits earned as a result of compliance?
Why Does ISO 45001 Matter?
As technology improves and the average workplace is transformed to meet the needs of current operations and systems, it makes sense to consider the safety and support offered to workers who spend their time in such spaces. Poor safety conditions within any workplace not only poses huge risks to the workers themselves but also to the business. Everyone — from customers to managers and stakeholders — is affected when a major incident occurs at a facility.
Highly publicized work accidents can directly impact a brand’s reputation, negatively affect revenue, and increase many costs, not the least of which includes the cost of damage and potential health problems for those involved.
Worse yet, if the accident happens at an active or primary site, the entire operation must be shut down to allow for a proper investigation and the appropriate reactions — which may mean making changes to prevent future incidents.
The best solution is to prevent accidents from occurring at all by honoring a much safer and streamlined work environment. Compliance with the ISO 45001 standard helps ensure this by laying out a series of safety-related guidelines all organizations can adhere to.
Moreover, because it was a global initiative and many other countries also adhere to the standard, it helps to establish consistent expectations across the entire supply chain. This is important, as many organizations work with remote vendors and partners who are situated in different areas of the world. Businesses can still ensure the health and safety of all involved, including their own workers, despite dealing with external parties.
Additional benefits include:
- Strong legal compliance for statutory and regulatory requirements
- Improve risk management controls and measures
- Higher customer satisfaction ratings
- A more positive and safety-minded reputation
- Proven and widely accepted business credentials
- Corporate social responsibility encouragement
How to Incorporate ISO 45001?
The next concern is how an established business or operation can properly implement and adhere to ISO 45001.
ISO 45001 is more about establishing a preventive safety system through the use of new and established systems. Legacy applications, tools and strategies will be much more harmonious after implementing the standard. There’s often a misconception that you must do away with the old to make room for the new, but that’s not necessarily the case with this standard.
In fact, ISO 45001 is much more about providing flexibility with respect to how requirements are fulfilled, especially since it’s applicable on a global scale.
To understand and ensure compliance, organizations must do the following:
1. Elevating Workforce Involvement
A strong perspective introduced by the standard is that the entire organization, from top to bottom, must be actively involved in managing and identifying safety activities. Everyone has a role to play when it comes to identifying and lowering the risk of workplace incidents.
Leadership and upper management especially must take accountability for the management of risks, including the failure to do so. This is not unlike how economic, marketing and operational policies are already handled. The idea is to put more emphasis on safety, in general, and make it more of a priority for everyone within an organization, leadership included.
2. Establishing Context
You cannot understand an event or situation without proper context, and that’s exactly the idea behind this pillar of the ISO standard. It refers to any internal and external issues or factors that influence the management of health and safety risks.
What is the context of the risk? Where does it come from? How can it be dealt with or prevented, if at all?
This touchpoint is more about understanding the risks and what’s required of the team, leaders and organization as a whole. There’s not necessarily any action involved, at least not yet. The necessary teams and leaders should assess the level of risk that exists in any work environment or project, as well as the surrounding context.
3. Continual Improvement and Compliance
As with most of the other ISO standards, 45001 expressly outlines a plan to continue improving and measuring overall safety. It’s not just about corrective action and execution for events discovered in the now, but those in the future, too.
This includes establishing a supportive safety culture within the organization, to ensure that everyone is involved and actively participating. The entire organization should make safety a priority, with an active culture surrounding the idea of healthy work environments.
4. Broadening “Worker” Definitions
Most guidelines flirt with the idea of improving safety for “workers” or personnel involved with the organization and its operations. But this standard employs a much broader definition, asserting that the term “worker” actually applies to anyone doing tasks controlled by the organization. This means the organization is responsible no matter who is doing the work or where it is carried out, including offsite activities.
In the same vein, the term “workplace” has been redefined as any space under control of the organization.
Companies must invest time and resources to ensure that all work environments are safe, whether they are on a conventional corporate property or not.
5. Defining Risks and Opportunities
Another definition that’s broadened in ISO 45001 is the one pertaining to risk, better described as an “effect of uncertainty.” What this means is that true risk is more encompassing than what conventional guidelines and systems would require.
The standard requires definitions of risk and opportunity as they relate to hazards and processes. For example: the nature of a hazardous chemical, as well as how that substance is handled. It’s not just about the risk directly, but how companies and teams deal with potential issues. The latter is important because improper controls and procedures can increase risk, creating much larger accidents or damages.
For instance, if that toxic chemical were to be disposed of improperly, it could harm anyone who handled the substance and anyone who comes into contact with the substance after the fact. You might look at this and feel it’s an obvious distinction, but it’s something other guidelines don’t deal with.
ISO 45001 Compliance Is a Must
For modern organizations, ISO 45001 must be seen as a fundamental standard. When the guidelines presented are leveraged correctly, they can improve workplace conditions for any crew, as well as deliver several benefits to the business. Improved revenue, lower operating costs, decreased risk, and a more positive reputation are all possible through compliance.