EHS MANAGEMENT BLOG

What is ISO 45001? Explained in 3 Minutes

If you’re a safety leader, you’ve probably heard about the new ISO 45001 Standard, which was published on March 12, 2018. The standard will have a big impact on the way safety leaders approach their work and the way organizations manage health and safety hazards. This article will give you an overview of the new safety management standard at a high-level and in plain English, so you’ll be better able to understand the benchmarks companies will be expected to meet.

What is ISO 45001?

ISO 45001 is an international standard that specifies requirements for an occupational health & safety (OHS) management system. It provides a framework for organizations to manage risks and opportunities to help prevent worker illnesses and injuries.

Although ISO 45001 builds on the old OHSAS 18001 standard, there are some significant differences. In order to meet the new requirements, organizations will need to fundamentally change the way they think about safety and risk.

There are two important parts of the standard that we want to highlight. First, the new IS0 45001 standard calls for a top-down commitment to safety. By making safety and health part of an organization’s management system, ISO 45001 holds C-suite executives accountable for worker wellness.

Second, the standard puts a greater emphasis on risk management. Unlike OHSAS 18001, which only focused on controlling known hazards, ISO 45001 requires organizations to take a risk based approach to proactively identify sources or situations that have the potential to cause harm. It’s part of a bigger shift we’re seeing toward risk management being baked into a company’s operations at every level.

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Why was ISO 45001 created?

As we mentioned above, ISO 45001 is designed to improve the way organizations manage health and safety risks.

Despite current safety efforts, work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths are far too common. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), 2.78 million people die from work-related illnesses or accidents each year. To put that in perspective, approximately 15 people will have died by the time you finish reading this article. What’s more, there are 374 million non-fatal occupational injuries each year resulting in more than 4 days away from work.

Clearly, the current approach to worker safety isn’t cutting it. As David Smith, chair of the project committee that developed ISO 45001, explains: “It is hoped that ISO 45001 will lead to a major transformation in workplace practices and reduce the tragic toll of work-related accidents and illnesses across the globe.”

Thus, the ISO 45001 standard was born. More than 70 countries participated in its development. Today, organizations around the world are working toward compliance or certification.

Who is ISO 45001 for?

ISO 45001 is for any organization that wants to reduce workplace illnesses and injuries and improve productivity. The standard can be applied to any organization, regardless of your size or industry.

While it’s not mandatory, many companies have already benefited from voluntarily choosing to comply. Beyond the obvious benefits of improving worker safety, complying with the standard is a way to show customers, investors, and regulators that you’re serious about worker safety. It’s also worth noting that some countries — particularly those in Europe — tend to look favorably on organizations that adopt the ISO standards.

Next steps

Now that you know what ISO 45001 is and who it's for, you might want to learn more about the benefits of ISO 45001.  

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