Workplace Safety Standards: ISO 45001

Is your company motto ‘Safety first… second, third?’

Ryan E. Day

April 16, 2019

According to the International Labor Organization, around the world every day 7,600 people die from work-related accidents or diseases—that’s more than 2.78 million people every year. To address the issue, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has developed a standard, ISO 45001 “Occupational health and safety management systems—Requirements,” that provides organizations with a framework to improve employee safety, reduce workplace risks, and create better and safer working conditions all over the world.

Published in March 2018, ISO 45001 replaces OHSAS 18001. Companies must migrate to the new standard by March 2021. ISO 45001 is an international standard, ensuring enhanced compatibility with other standards, such as ISO 9001 and 14001. This makes it easier to implement and integrate to a management system, giving increased value for users.

A common question that arises with this and other ISO standards concerns the fact that because they are essentially process frameworks, how does one draw the connection between the framework—such as ISO 45001—and the actual nuts and bolts of one’s organization? How does one translate the guidance from clauses to, for example, lockout/tagout procedures, or when wearing steel-toed shoes should be required, or a hard hat?

“The main requirement of ISO 45001 is to identify the hazards and risks associated with any organization,” explains Ismael Belmarez, accreditation technical manager for DNV GL Business Assurance, NA. “Basically, you want to eliminate hazards. So, if something's obviously wrong, say a frayed electrical wire that must be replaced, there’s no question about that.”

Potential hazards, such as tripping or slipping, require identification and a plan to mitigate or lessen the eventuality of such a hazard from actually occurring.

“You start off just by identifying your hazards and risks,” says Belmarez. “And those risks are going to vary greatly from industry to industry. An office environment absolutely has inherent associated risks, but a chemical manufacturing plant is obviously going to be dealing with a drastically different set of hazards. The bottom line is that you must identify those risks way ahead of time and take steps to minimize their eventuality and severity.”

Check out the full interview on Quality Digest Live video, or catch the audio version on our Quality Digest Live Podcast.

About The Author

Ryan E. Day’s picture

Ryan E. Day

Ryan E. Day is Quality Digest’s senior editor for solution-based reporting, which brings together those seeking business improvement solutions and solution providers. Day has spent the last decade researching and interviewing top business leaders and continuous improvement experts at companies like Sakor, Ford, Merchandize Liquidators, Olympus, 3D Systems, Hexagon, Intertek, InfinityQS, Johnson Controls, FARO, and Eckel Industries. Most of his reporting is done with the help of his 20-lb tabby cat at his side.