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Ismael Belmarez

Management

Organizing for Safety and Sustainable Performance

Why ISO standards are so valuable

Published: Thursday, April 4, 2019 - 12:03

Given the number of meetings most organizations have, you’d think everyone couldn’t help but be on the same page. Sort of a natural, automatic byproduct of spending so much time together. Nice idea, but not really true.

In fact, organizing is one of the most difficult things for an organization to do. If you think this is a subcritical issue—a minor annoyance, perhaps—think again. It’s a factor that affects real-world operational performance and profitability. A recent Trend Micro survey in the field of cybersecurity says 80 percent of all organizations expect to be breached this year, a rather shocking admission. The single biggest reason? Not technology, not finance, not hackers from the Dark Web. The biggest vulnerability is organizational misalignment. The link everyone’s missing is the bottle of proverbial glue that binds the organization into a single, focused entity. And the global economy is paying an increasingly high price for these disconnects.

That’s exactly why ISO standards are so valuable; they can be a game-changer as markets find new ways to expose businesses that are too spread out, and we don’t mean geographically. ISO standards for quality, environment, and safety are uniquely designed to address companies’ ability to get, and stay, organized and in control. The standards are structured around repeatable processes with specific goals and mechanisms of accountability. They help organizations get off the defensive and to leaning forward into their challenges with focus and purpose.

Specifically relating to workplace safety, the go-to organizing standard is now ISO 45001.

Upon its introduction in 2018, ISO 45001 became the world’s first international standard for managing workplace health and safety. It’s a big leap forward from its predecessor, OSHAS 18001. The first huge difference is that it’s global in nature. ISO 45001 is produced by teams from around the world—vetted, honed, published, and maintained by an ISO technical committee. Input from users is constantly gathered and titrated into updated versions of the standard.

Some of the most significant new features of ISO 45001 vs. OHSAS 18001:

Based on processes, not procedures
Like all ISO management systems standards, ISO 45001 is process-based and focuses on outcomes rather than the minutiae of individual activities. This challenges employees doing the work to understand why they do it and what is expected as a result. It encourages end-to-end ownership, and also promotes accountability. It helps companies see the forest through the trees. 

Requires leadership involvement
Workplace health and safety is not typically on the radar of top management. Not to say it’s treated with indifference, but historically it is governed at the “don’t make problems” level vs. the “help us improve our business” level. ISO 45001 elevates health and safety to a strategic issue. The big upside to this is that if changes need to occur, you already have top management involved.

Drives analytics and integration
Maintaining an ISO standard certification successfully requires data... data to prove that what you’re doing works, and that the policies of the organization are clear and shared with all relevant parties. All of these data, and the whole mindset of measurement, makes ISO 45001 a robust information asset that feeds directly into management decision making. Moreover, ISO 45001 is based on the same structure as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, making it easy to integrate with other management systems standards you may already have in place.

Promotes continual improvement and forward progress
Safety professionals are too often playing defense. It’s the mindset of “don’t” vs. “do.” ISO 45001 inverts that equation and makes safety a proactive endeavor. Obviously, prevention is important. That doesn’t change. But we know from cognitive science that showing someone the way to win is a lot more powerful than telling them not to lose. It’s a breath of fresh air and helps empower people.

The way to bring ISO 45001 into your organization is to get certified.

“Certification is a process that shows accountability and professional practice,” says Jayne Pilot, founder and president of Pilot Performance Resources Management, a firm specializing in helping companies boost efficiency and drive business performance.

“On the pathway to complying with the standard, and gaining those bragging rights, companies often realize how many redundant and rarely used policies they have,” says Pilot. “ISO forces them to simplify, to focus, putting in control measures and constantly analyzing the value of what they are doing.”

With more than 30 years of experience in health and safety, as well as quality and environmental fields, Pilot believes that safety isn’t about playing it safe. A safe organization is one with fewer distractions, less “drag” on operations, she says. In that sense, safety—proactive safety—contributes not only to employee protection but also to efficiency and higher performance overall, positively affecting the organization’s bottom line.

To learn more, join Ismael Belmarez, accreditation technical manager at DNV GL Business Assurance, North America; Jayne Pilot, president of Pilot Performance Resources Management; and Quality Digest editor in chief Dirk Dusharme on Tues., April 9, 2019, at 11 a.m. Pacific/1 p.m. Central for the webinar, “Helping Manage Workplace Safety for Business Success: Are You In?” Click here to register.

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About The Author

Ismael Belmarez’s picture

Ismael Belmarez

Ismael Belmarez has been auditing management system standards for more 25 years. He is currently the accreditation technical manager for DNV GL Business Assurance, North America and has experience with multiple standards, including ISO 9001, IATF 16949, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001, ISO 45001, AS91XX and TL 9000, as well as the associated governing documents for accreditations.