ISO Issues New Global Safety Standard

Mar. 12, after four-and-a-half years of development, and after being formally approved by 93 percent of its membership in January, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is publishing the first global health and safety management systems standard: ISO 45001.

"ISO 45001 is one of the most significant developments in workplace safety over the last 50 years, presenting an opportunity to move the needle on reducing occupational safety and health risks," said Vic Toy, chairman of the U.S. technical advisory group for ISO 45001.

The standard includes a way for employers to integrate other safety standards and programs into the same program.

It utilizes the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) model as a way to assess safety practices. In other words, rather than only encouraging employers to meet local safety laws, ISO 45001 creates a repetitive process designed to produce the same results time after time. The process is set up to identify hazards, ensure those hazards are eliminated, and create a repetitive loop designed to continuously ensure that the hazards do not return.

It also encourages companies, backed by executive leadership, to make health and safety a part of their organizational goals rather than a matter for only those who are directly responsible for health and safety issues in their organizations.

As part of this, it encourages employee involvement in safety programs and offers a continuous health and safety practice evaluation process designed to ensure the best outcomes and reduce risk. It utilizes risk-based thinking throughout to minimize negative outcomes, and it emphasizes that the workers closest to a particular risk should be involved in decision-making processes related to that risk.

"ISO 45001 is about protecting workers at all levels of an organization," said Anne Hayes, head of the governance and resilience sector of BSI, the business standards company that is responsible for the publication of ISO 45001. "From the Saturday part-timer on a zero-hours contract to the chief executive of an international conglomerate, this global standard was designed for the good of the organization and everyone who works for it."

Hayes emphasized that ISO 45001 is not about more paperwork and red tape.

"On the contrary, ISO 45001 was created to make it easier for organizations to create and maintain a safe and healthy working environment for all," she said.

The standard is applicable to workers in all industries, irrespective of their occupational titles, and is relevant to companies of all sizes, whether 10 employees or 100,000.

The standard is voluntary. In the United States, of course, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards are still de facto law.

For more information, go to www.iso.org.

About the Author

William Atkinson

Freelance Writer
William Atkinson has been a full-time business magazine writer since 1976. Contact him at w.atkinson@mchsi.com .

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