The Noggin Blog

ISO 45001: What’s new?

Posted by The Brain on Mar 7, 2019 4:00:00 AM


We’ve all been following major shifts in occupational health and safety. And perhaps, no one recent change has been bigger than the introduction of ISO 45001. The new ISO standard supplants OHSAS 18001 to give organizations of any size and in any market a systematic, integrated way to manage work safety risk.

For safety professionals accustomed to older standards, though, there’s a lot to track with ISO 45001. What should you know about the new standard?


For starters, OHS risk is legion. Across the world, over 2.3 million workers die every year from work-related accidents and diseases, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). Between 2010 and 2014, non-fatal occupational accidents – those causing at least a four-day absence from work – rose dramatically to nearly 374 million incidents. Indeed, this sharp rise underscored the dire need for a global standard, the first of its kind, to deal exclusively with work health and safety.

And as such, ISO 45001 is a landmark in the space, supplanting pre-existing national standards: none more important than the British standard OHSAS 18001, which had come the closest to becoming the default best practice in the field.

Sure, OHSAS 18001 had codified important safety practices. But the drive to create an international standard reflected the reality that the British standard wasn’t flawless. ISO 45001 drafters knew this. That’s why they crafted the new standard to address limitations with OHSAS 18001.

See the list of key differences between ISO 45001 and OHSAS 18001, here:

  • Process (not procedure-) based
    • Requirement for “documented information” rather than documented procedures and records
  • Dynamic in all clauses
  • Introduces a new focus on organizational context
  • Considers risks as well as opportunities
  • Requires greater senior management commitment
  • Prescribes a strategic (not reactive) approach to OHS management
  • Seeks to inscribe OHS within larger management of the business
  • Ensures organizations understand relevant internal and external issues
  • Ensures greater coordination with workers, suppliers, subcontractors, clients, and regulators

Emergency management changes in ISO 45001

There’s one crucial difference we held back, and it has to do with emergency management, specifically how ISO 45001 treats the work safety risk associated with emergency incidents. In this case, ISO 45001 goes much further than OHSAS 18001 in tackling the risk of emergency situations to the health and wellbeing of employees, customers, and other stakeholders, by calling for more stringent emergency preparedness and response measures.

What are some of those measures? For one, OHS professionals must now take a more active part in all stages of the emergency management lifecycle. That includes consulting with a wider breadth of internal and external stakeholders during an emergency, including emergency response agencies and the local community.

Finally, under the terms of ISO 45001, organizations must take the following, clear steps to anticipate, prevent, or minimize emergency risk:

  • Identify and plan for potential emergency situations; integrate emergency exercises into your system
  • Prepare a planned response to emergency situations, such as bomb threats, terrorist attacks, active shooter incidents, or natural disasters
  • Periodically test and exercise emergency response capabilities
  • Evaluate and revise emergency preparedness measures, especially after the occurrence of emergency situations
  • Provide relevant information to all members of the organizations regarding their duties and responsibilities during an emergency event
    • At the very least, organizations should proactively maintain up-to-date contact details of all internal and external stakeholders and procure mass communication tools to be deployed during major emergencies, e.g. earthquakes and storms
  • Provide emergency prevention, preparedness, and response training
  • Communicate information to contractors, visitors, relevant emergency response services, government authorities, and the local community

Of course, that’s only a snippet of the sweeping measures ISO 45001 ushers in. To learn more about how the standard can change your safety operations, download our Guide to Understanding ISO 45001.

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Workplace Safety and Health Institute, Global Estimates of Occupational Accidents and Work-related Illnesses 2017


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Topics: Work Health Safety

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