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ISO 45001:2018: Employees and Leadership Working Together to Build an Effective Health and Safety Culture

EHSQ Alliance Affiliate

By recognizing the potential of ISO 45001:2018, top management can tap into a powerful tool that elevates occupational health and safety performance and reduces work-related illness and injury.

By Steve Williams 

ISO 45001:2018 is the first ISO standard for occupational health and safety (OH&S); elevating the importance of OH&S on the corporate agenda and bringing benefits to workers across the world. One of the many benefits of ISO 45001 is that it involves the whole organization in the occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS). While we all need to take responsibility for our own health and safety at work - and for that of others - top management has overall responsibility. They need to take an active role in promoting the health and safety culture and demonstrating why it is important.

The introduction to ISO 45001 makes this intention clear from the start:

“The implementation of an OH&S management system is a strategic and operational decision for an organization. The success of the OH&S management system depends on leadership, commitment and participation from all levels and functions of the organization.”

This sets the scene for the entire standard and the basis for developing an effective OHSMS. By recognizing the potential of the new standard, top management can tap into a powerful tool that elevates occupational health and safety performance and reduces work-related illness and injury – leading to better morale among the workforce and a strong reputation as a responsible employer and good corporate citizen.

While ISO 45001 is a new international standard, it builds on the concepts and requirements in OHSAS 18001:2007. Organizations currently certified to OHSAS 18001 have a three-year period from the publication date (March  12, 2018) to migrate to ISO 45001 before the old standard is withdrawn.

Why is leadership an important element within ISO 45001?

While leadership isn’t specifically defined in ISO 45001, it does have some broadly accepted traits, including creating and sharing a vision and motivating others to follow it. Leaders provide the structure, information and resources that will enable the people in their organization to achieve that vision.

What leaders say, how they act and what they value all influence whether safety and health are mere buzzwords in the workplace or if they are embedded into the processes and culture. Leadership is important in ISO 45001 because it has such an impact on whether the OHSMS will be effective in driving better health and safety performance within the organization.

What’s the difference between leadership and top management?

It is important to make a distinction between leadership and top management. Clause 3.12 of ISO 45001 defines top management as the “person or group of people who directs and controls an organization at the highest level,” whereas leadership can be present anywhere and at any level.

How is leadership incorporated into the requirements of ISO 45001?

While Section 5 of ISO 45001 outlines the role of leadership, the basis for leadership’s importance comes in Section 4. Here, the context of the organization, stakeholder analysis and the scope and purpose of the management system are addressed.

This is important because it aligns the management system with the overall business strategy and practices, making it is relevant across the entire organization.

Section 5 is divided into four sub-clauses:

  • 5.1 – Leadership and commitment
  • 5.2 – OH&S policy
  • 5.3 – Organizational roles, responsibilities and authorities
  • 5.4 – Consultation and participation of workers

ISO 45001 introduces requirements that embed the OHSMS into routine business operations, rather than it operating as an independent system. For this to happen, top management needs to take ownership of the management system in the same way that they take ownership of other elements of their business system.

For organizations where top management play an active role in driving OH&S performance, the changes will be a formalization of what is happening now. However, where top management have effectively devolved responsibility for their OHSMS, the impact of the new standard will be greater.

There is no requirement for a management representative, though the duties currently assigned to the management representative in OHSAS 18001:2007 must still be undertaken.

Organizations may choose to keep or even establish this role, however, some of the duties traditionally assigned to the Management Representative will, in future, need to be undertaken directly by top management.

Download the full guide to find out more about the leadership requirements of ISO 45001; how those requirements will drive a culture of safety and health; and how to engage top management in your organization.  

About the author: Steve Williams is System and Governance Manager, Business Assurance, Lloyd’s Register. He joined Lloyd’s Register (LR) in 1990 with a background in engineering, quality assurance and environmental management. In his role as System Governance Manager, Williams is responsible for defining and monitoring the service delivery process requirements for LR’s global certification, verification and validation products, helping to assure the integrity of the services delivered and ensuring compliance with LR’s accreditation and regulatory approvals. He represents LR externally on various UK Government, European Commission, ISO and International Accreditation Forum (IAF) committees. He has a wealth of experience in standards development, having been involved with the development of ISO 45001, the new standard for Occupational Health & Safety; the revision of the Environmental Management System, ISO 14001:2015; and many others. 

March 13, 2019 @ 09:40 AM EDT Manufacturing Health & Safety

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