It’s been a couple years since work health and safety management system standards got a global upgrade. In 2018, ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 45001 came out, replacing British certification, OHSAS 18001, as the best-practice standard.
Plenty of compliance conscious PCBUs didn’t make the move then. But the British standard is only valid until the end of March 2021, meaning now is the time to upgrade. What are the other safety advantages of ISO 45001?
First things first, OHSAS 18001 had a lot going for it, including a focus on business requirements to create an effective WHS management system. Add to that, the standard helped plenty of businesses implement a flexible framework to identify and control risks, as well as reduce on-the-job accidents, achieve compliance, and improve WHS performance.
But it never had the imprimatur of an international organisation, like the ISO. Which has always narrowed its scope.
Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about global buy-in when upgrading to ISO 45001. And, if you’ve already adopted OHSAS 18001, you’ve got a substantial head start in migrating to ISO 45001. So, what are the key differences between the standards?
For one, the high-level ISO approach provides for easier integration with other, relevant ISO standards, including 9001 (designed to help companies meet the product needs of customers and other stakeholders), 14000 (related to environmental management), and 22000 (which deals with food safety).
Additionally, ISO 45001 tasks senior management, not the rank-and-file, with taking the leading role in implementing WHS best practices. Getting business leaders to take the central role in encouraging a positive occupational health and safety culture helps to make safety matters absolutely crucial to running the business.
ISO 45001 also provides a proactive and strategic emphasis on risk (not just a reactive approach to hazards), with risk understood in the wider context of the management system, including outsourced tasks. ISO 45001 also ushers in a broader conception of risk-based thinking, which extends to exploiting opportunities when setting objectives.
Notably, ISO 45001 is heavily focused on organisation context, i.e. the interaction between a PCBU and its larger business environment – OHSAS 18001 was more concerned with managing hazards within the organization. Indeed, the new global standard moves away from “hazard identification” as a concept.
Similarly, the international standard broadens the scope of parties interested in safety matters. PCBUs must have a keen understanding of the needs and expectations of their workers as well as suppliers, subcontractors, clients, and regulators. Companies must also provide for the gathering and dissemination of (consistent) information to these parties, especially during an emergency situation.
In sum, PCBUs have until March 2021 to migrate to the new standard, so it’s best to get started sooner rather than later: not only because updating your safety processes to best practices in the field is a good in and of itself, but also because migrating to the new standard requires careful analysis and might simply be beyond the scope of many of your existing tools and systems. How to get started with the upgrade process? Download our guide to ISO 45001.