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Ismael Belmarez


Transitioning to ISO 45001

The updated safety standard, due out in May, brings ease of use to organizations seeking certification

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 - 12:02

Workplace safety is a vital concern for every organization. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers in 2016, costing employers tens of billions of dollars.

In March of this year, the leading certification standard for occupational health and safety—OHSAS 18001—is changing to ISO/FDIS 45001. Organizations will find much commonality among the two programs as well as a few key differences.

Of particular note, the ISO 45001 standard uses a high level structure (HLS), which makes it consistent with other ISO management systems standards such as ISO 9001 (quality) and ISO 14001 (environment), both of which have undergone updates in the past couple of years. The goal is to base the family of ISO standards on a common functional structure that allows organizations to easily understand and prepare for certification audits across all the standards. Think of it as an operating system for your computer or phone, which allows any number of individual applications to run smoothly without having to reinvent the basic rules for how things work on that device. The HLS does that for the various ISO standards.

The HLS brings a new level of sophistication and ease of use to organizations seeking certification. It elevates the issue of workplace safety to a more strategic position, and offers a greater level of seamlessness with other ISO standards.

Further specific differences in ISO/FDIS 45001 requirements

Business context
Clause 4.1—“External and internal issues,” introduces new clauses for systematic determination and monitoring of the business context.

Workers and other interested parties
Clause 4.2 introduces enhanced focus on needs and expectations for workers and other interested parties as well as worker involvement. This allows users to systematically identify and understand factors that need to be managed through the management system.

Risk and opportunity management
Described in clauses 6.1.1,, 6.1.4, companies are to determine, consider, and where necessary, take action to address any risks or opportunities that may impact, either positively or negatively, the ability of the management system to deliver its intended results, including enhanced health and safety at the workplace.

Leadership and management commitment
Stated in clause 5.1, ISO 45001 has stronger emphasis on top management to actively engage and be accountable for the management system’s effectiveness.

Objectives and performance
Strengthened focus on objectives as drivers for improvements (chapters 6.2.1,6.2.2) and performance evaluation (chapter 9.1.1).

Extended requirements
These are related to:
• Participation, consultation, and participation of workers (Clause 5.4)
• Communication (Clause 7.4): It’s more prescriptive in respect of the “mechanics” of communication, including determination of what, when, and how to communicate.
• Procurement, including outsourced processes, and contractors (Clause 8.1.4)

21st-century challenges

The migration of OHSAS into ISO reflects the needs and challenges of the 21st century. OHSAS had its roots as a British standard first published in 1999. As part of the ISO family, ISO/FDIS 45001 will share company with the world’s most widely recognized technical and business-process standards.

“ISO is known and respected across the globe,” says Faith Beaty, director of marketing and communication for DNV GL—Business Assurance North America. “Certainly OHSAS has been very effective, but there comes a point at which you need to have true global participation and relevance to make a standard work in a modern business environment.”

Organizations already certified to OHSAS 18001 will have three years to comply with the new ISO 45001 standards.

To learn more, join me and Debra M. Hay Hampton of Cornerstone Engineering, Training, and Consulting (CETC), as well as Quality Digest editor in chief Dirk Dusharme on Tues., Jan. 23, 2018, at 10 a.m. Central/8 a.m. Pacific for the webinar, “Transition to ISO 45001: How to Get Started.” Click here to register.


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.