The adoption of ISO 45001 is a watershed moment for occupational health and safety management systems (OHSMS). With the standard now published, it will provide organizations a structure around which they can work to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities.
In this time of change for the standards community, OSH professionals may ask themselves ‘what do I do next?’ The steps below outline the measures that safety professionals can take to begin implementing ISO 45001.
- Understand OHSMS and ISO 45001. The first step in implementing ISO 45001, or any standard for that matter, is understanding its purpose and how it can benefit an organization.
“Start by building your knowledge on what a management system is and how you can leverage it to benefit workers as well as the organization to improve health and safety performance and risk management,” says Vic Toy, CSP, CIH and chair of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on ISO 45001.
Safety professionals should also take this opportunity to familiarize themselves with ISO 45001 and its requirements. The standard provides 11 success factors for the implementation of an OHSMS, which can provide guidance on how it can be carried out.
With deeper knowledge of OHSMS and ISO 45001, safety professionals can develop a strong business case for why their organizations should implement the standard. By understanding ISO 45001 requirements, safety professionals can gain insight into the impact the standard can have on the company’s bottom line, and communicate that to executives.
“OSH professionals need to understand the business impact of the integration of this standard on commercial excellence,” says Kathy Seabrook, CSP, CFIOSH, EurOSHM and vice chair of the U.S. TAG on ISO 45001. “It is a competitive advantage, and organizations who understand how to leverage it will outperform their competitors.”
- Examine your current system. To understand how ISO 45001 will fit into a safety management system, it is important to examine what standards and systems are already in place. For example, some organizations have adopted ISO 9001 (quality) and 14001 (environment), which contain the same core language as ISO 45001.
If an organization is already using ISO 9000 and ISO 14001 and is familiar with this management system approach, integration of 45001 becomes much less complex and the transition can be made more seamlessly.
- Engage with stakeholders. Safety professionals need to understand that implementing ISO 45001 could lead to an organizational change. As with any change, individuals and groups will be affected in a variety of ways. Some may be in favor of the change, while others may be opposed. Therefore, safety professionals should gather input from the entire organization and understand the different perspectives that people have about safety and health risks.
“Based on an understanding of different perspectives,” says Toy, “you will then have a good place to start to conduct a gap analysis based on not just the requirements in the standard but, more so, what your objectives should be for your OHSMS.”
Beyond gathering information on different perspectives, engaging with stakeholders also helps foster a culture where everyone feels a sense of ownership in the safety management system.
“This is an opportunity to develop leaders within an organization,” explains Seabrook. “From the worker who is building the bridge, or the electrician performing the lockout/tagout, all the way up to the board of directors, ISO 45001 establishes that everyone has a role, a responsibility and ownership of safety through an accountability system.”
It is also crucial at this stage to engage with leadership and educate them on why they may want to implement ISO 45001. Safety professionals should explain to executives the operational and financial impacts of implementing such a system so that they can then make an informed decision.
- Determine priorities and establish goals. With the information gathered from engaging with stakeholders, safety professionals can begin to determine the desired priorities for the organization’s OHSMS, as well as the safety and business performance goals the organization hopes to achieve through the implementation of ISO 45001.
Organizations can then align the implementation of the standard with actual business objectives. Identifying business objectives in terms of occupational safety and health, and aligning them to ISO 45001 allows business to generate metrics by which they can measure the success of the OHSMS, and make adjustments and improvements over time.
- Establish or improve your OHSMS. By following the first four steps, safety professionals can then develop an OHSMS that is customized to their organization, or improve on an existing system. This process will also help them to bring together a team that can execute the plan.
With ISO 45001 in place, that team can then track performance against the goals and objectives that have been identified to continuously improve both safety and business performance across the entire organization.