What is ISO 45001?

What is ISO 45001?

ISO 45001 is an international standard that stipulates requirements for an occupational health and safety management system.

What is an OHSMS?

An occupational health and safety management system, or OHSMS, is the set of rules, policies, processes, plans and practices that an organization uses to protect people’s health and safety in the workplace.

Every organization’s OHSMS is unique. It must take the organization’s legal framework, relevant hazards, and processes into account. However, certain principles and elements are common to all successful health and safety systems.

ISO 45001 represents best practices for an OHSMS. It helps organizations establish, implement and maintain effective health and safety systems, without missing any important elements.

Transition from OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001

ISO 45001:2018 was published in March 2018. It is based on OHSAS 18001 and supersedes it.

All organizations currently certified to OHSAS 18001 are required to transition to ISO 45001 over a three-year period, ending in 2021.

Differences between ISO 45001 and OHSAS 18001

The main differences between ISO 45001 and OHSAS 18001 are as follows.

High Level Structure (HLS)

The new ISO 45001 standard implements a high-level structure that is shared with ISO 14001:2015 and ISO 9001:2015.

This simplifies the implementation and integration of multiple standards in an organization.

The role of the management representative

Under OHSAS 18001, the operation of the OHSMS could be delegated by senior management to a single management representative.

Under ISO 45001, this is discouraged. Having one person controlling a health and safety system is seen as risky. Spreading responsibility to a number of employees is more conducive to continuous improvement.

More importantly, top management can no longer distance themselves from the operation of the occupational health and safety system.

Enhanced role of top management

Senior management are expected to take a stronger leadership role.

They’re expected to conduct frequent reviews of the system, participate in safety audits and encourage and reward employees who raise safety issues.

Encourage a health and safety culture

Health and safety should be an integral part of “business as usual.”

All employees must be aware of the objectives and advantages of a safe, efficient workplace, and be encouraged to contribute to and participate in workplace safety initiatives.

For example, this means:

  • integrating the organization’s health and safety vision into recruitment
  • involving employees on an end-to-end basis
  • creating organizational transparency for all investigations, changes, and new initiatives.

Risks, hazards, and opportunities

OHSAS 18001 focused on controlling hazards. In line with the general direction of new ISO standards, ISO 45001 encourages a “risk- based thinking” approach

The goal is to identify, evaluate, and remedy potential risks before they materialize.

The context of the organization and any external influences on it should be considered. All potential risks, hazards, and opportunities should be documented, assessed, and addressed. This process must be integrated into a broader continuous improvement cycle.

In short, an organization should go beyond simple pinch points and slip hazards. It should adopt a more holistic understanding of health and safety risks.

A focus on improved planning

As part of risk-based thinking, more importance is given to planning and the setting of objectives.

Organizational goals should be linked to health and safety objectives. Priorities should be identified. Responsibilities for achieving goals must be assigned, along with relevant KPIs and timelines. And all of these steps must be properly documented.

A broader definition of health

People tend to think of workplace health and safety as relating to accidents and resulting physical injuries.

ISO 45001 defines health more broadly, to include aspects such as employee wellbeing, stress, fatigue, and mental health.

Terminology updates in ISO 45001

With the wider focus of ISO 45001:2018, new definitions of terms such as “worker”, “workplace” and “documented information” are introduced. Of the 37 terms and definitions in ISO 45001:2018, only three are identical to those used in OHSAS 18001.

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