A new standard released in 2018, ISO 45001 Occupational health and safety management systems, lays out best practices for developing a health and safety management system and provides guidance on using the system. The goal is to help employers make the workplace safer by proactively evaluating health and safety performance.
ISO 45001 is the first occupational safety and health management system standard to be internationally accepted, providing a framework for employers to improve safety and health and reduce risk. It replaces OHSAS 18001, although organizations conforming to OHSAS 18001 will have a three-year transition period.
Most businesses have implemented some sort of ISO standard in the past, for quality, security, environmental management, or something else. Many businesses decided to implement ISO standards to better compete in their industry sector. Because ISO 45001 is compatible with other ISO standards, organizations that already implemented another standard will have a leg up if they decide to work toward ISO 45001 certification.
The standard helps establish and attain safety and health objectives by documenting legal obligations and then going through a continual improvement process. The standard does not specify particular objectives, but does provide a framework to integrate safety and health with other initiatives such as employee wellness. Organizations of any size could benefit from this process, regardless of industry sector.
To become certified, employers should first purchase the ISO standard and form a steering committee, then conduct a gap assessment looking at where they are now and where they need to get to meet ISO 45001. The standard guides companies in taking a systematic and proactive approach to worker safety. Once the provisions have been implemented, the employer schedules a third-party auditor to come in and determine certification.
The certification process will involve a lot of documentation. For example, an organization must prepare a regulatory matrix of provisions that apply to the company. (This could be a valuable exercise even if the company decides not to go for the certification.) The employer would also undertake a SWOT analysis, looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Various investment entities are looking at sustainable companies, and particularly looking at safety and health as a performance metric before investing in, or even do business with, other companies. For example, potential business partners may ask, "What are you doing for safety and health?" For small- to mid-size companies that don't have management systems in place, obtaining the ISO 45001 certification could set them apart from their competitors.