International standard shows how businesses “can do health and safety better”

health & safety

A year on from the launch of a global standard for health and safety in workplaces, more businesses are being urged to join forward-thinking organisations in strengthening the way they look after employees.

This certification, called ISO 45001, can help organisations land big, lucrative contracts – but the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) says that shouldn’t be the primary reason to adopt it.

Instead, employers should focus on how agreed good practice encouraged by the standard can boost health and safety across their business and supply chains, ensuring no one is harmed by their activities and that their operations run smoothly.

ISO 45001 was introduced on 12 March 2018, replacing OHSAS 18001. It was the first globally-agreed standard for health and safety management in workplaces and is aimed at helping to reduce the worryingly high number of work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses around the world.

While exact figures for the number of adopters aren’t yet available, many organisations have already gained certification. It is expected that all organisations certificated to OHSAS 18001 (more than 150,000) are likely to migrate to the ISO standard, with many more adopting it due to it being a “truly international standard”.

Richard Jones, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at IOSH, said: “ISO 45001 is an opportunity for all organisations, whatever size and sector and whether or not going for certification, to ask themselves ‘how can we do health and safety better?’

“As well as the health and safety benefits, the current uncertainties regarding international trading arrangements mean those whose systems meet international standards may be advantaged in competitive markets, as they transcend national and economic boundaries.

“But it’s all about better risk management and not necessarily about winning big contracts or ticking another corporate box. Employers need to do what’s right for their organisations and workers and appreciate that gaining certification isn’t an end in itself – it’s the start of a continual improvement journey.”

Among the first adopters of ISO 45001 were CBRE Global Workplace Solutions, which specialises in facilities and project management; building science centre BRE Group; geoscience specialist the British Geological Survey; and Affinity for Business, a water provider to business.

These organisations spoke about their route to certification in a recent edition of IOSH Magazine.

IOSH played a major role in the building of the standard, as a Category A liaison body on the PC 283 committee which developed it. This meant it has had direct access to all PC 283 papers and attended the committee meetings, participated in work groups and was consulted on developments. Its also now a member of the new Technical Committee (TC 283), which is overseeing the future of ISO 45001.

Richard added: “Whether or not they are seeking certification, adopting the ISO 45001 principles, including on leadership, worker participation and competence, helps organisations and their supply chains reap the many benefits of effective risk management – saving lives, supporting their businesses and sustaining their communities.”