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New Format for Future ISO Management System Standards

Harmonized structure, text, and terms will simplify use of multiple standards

Published: Thursday, July 19, 2012 - 12:51

(ISO: Geneva) -- The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has just completed work to provide identical structure, text, and common terms and definitions for management system standards of the future. This will ensure consistency among future and revised management system standards and make integrated use simpler. It will also make the standards easier to read, and in so doing, more understandable for users.

Three management system standards have already been published in this new harmonized format with another seven on the way. Both ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 will follow the new outline during their revision process.

ISO has over the years published many management system standards for topics ranging from quality and environment to information security, business continuity management, and records management. Despite sharing common elements, ISO management system standards come in many different shapes and structures. This, in turn, results in some confusion and difficulties at the implementation stage.

All technical committees developing management system standards have to follow Annex SL in the new consolidated ISO Supplement. Annex SL harmonizes structure, text, and terms and definitions, while leaving the standards developers with the flexibility to integrate their specific technical topics and requirements.

New requirements

There are subtle language issues, such as the change from document and records to documented information to the use of IT and other tools, to illustrate what is being done. The new text recognizes the use of the broad concept of risk and the need to understand risk in the context of the management system. It also encourages everyone to view preventive action as a broader concept than simply preventing an incident from reoccurring.

Any change represents challenges and opportunities, and this is no exception. During the next few months, ISO will promote understanding of what this change means to avoid confusion and improve understanding among the affected technical committees, as well as among the users of the standards.

What next?

It will take a few years before all existing management system standards have been fully harmonized. However, there were an impressive number of standards that used the new format as it was being developed.

Two of ISO’s flagship management system standards, ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, have launched their revision processes, and both will use the new format for their revisions.

The Joint Technical Coordination Group (JTCG) is responsible for developing the document at the request of the ISO Technical Management Board (TMB). The JTCG plans to collect information on user experience in 2012. The group is available to answer any questions from standards writers, although users should initially ask their standards developing community.



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The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is the world’s largest developer and publisher of international standards. ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 162 countries, one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system. ISO is a nongovernmental organization that forms a bridge between the public and private sectors. ISO enables a consensus to be reached on solutions that meet both the requirements of business and the broader needs of society. View the ISO Standards list.