Probably the biggest news in the WHS/OHS world of late is the introduction of the new international standard for OHS – ISO 45001. This standard has finally been published as a joint ANZ standard meaning it has officially replaced the aged AS4801:2001 – Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems. There has been a deal written about this new standard, so I thought I would try and give a high-level summary for those who don’t have the time to devote to understanding this standard.

Is this standard important to me?

The standard is important to those who are already accredited to the old standard (AS4801:2001) or who are for various reasons wanting gain external health and safety certification. Gaining external certification means that you are audited against a standard and your management system becomes certified. You have probably seen “ISO ticks” on company documents or websites. So if this is you, you will need to ensure that your health and safety management systems comply with the new standard. Basically, if you had or intended to have certification to AS 4801, ISO 45001 will be your new standard.

Are there any differences?

Yes, there are some new requirements. For those that are familiar with the quality management standard (ISO 9001), the new health and safety standard will look very familiar, and this is deliberate. One of the primary reasons for the development of ISO 45001 was to align health and safety standards with the currently used quality and environmental standards (ISO 9001 / ISO 14001).

If you have a functional and comprehensive health and safety, or integrated management system, there will not be a great deal of change that you need to implement. Some of the main differences (as compared to AS4801) are around a deeper analysis of the company/organisation and the environment in which it is working (this is called context in the new standards). This analysis will need to carry over into planning and analysis of risk, both of which are more strongly emphasised in the new standard. While this sounds like just a small thing, there is often a deal of thought and planning that is needed to fulfill this requirement.

Consultation (e.g. with workers) is also referred to more in the new standard, and will have a greater emphasis.

What are the Pros?

I feel the new standard delivers a number of positives, the main one being that it now aligns with the 2 other standards that a company looking for certification will also likely have, or be looking to attain (ISO 9001 and ISO 14001). This makes it easier to build integrated management systems (IMS), and companies will likely find their quality system aligns with the safety standard. I feel there is also a greater emphasis on leadership and top management reporting, which should always be regarded as positive.

Are there any Cons:

From the point of view of the standard itself, no I don’t perceive any negatives here. The standard is newer and more in touch with the way we construct health and safety management systems today. Also, the alignment to existing standards is an advantage. Of course, any new system such as this will require a gap analysis to be done to determine any actions that are required to help your organisation to achieve the standard and to become certified to it, so there is certainly some work to be done in ensuring that your systems meet the new standard.

So there is my 10,000m overview of the new ISO 45001. Of course there is a lot more detail to be explored. Please contact us if you would like any more information. I’ll be looking to put together a gap analysis tool to assist businesses who are looking to migrate across.