643 3331280March 5, 2019

By: Edwin G. Foulke, Jr.

Every business around the world is constantly looking for a program or innovation that will give them an edge or advantage over their competition. In many cases, it is that edge or advantage that may spell the difference in success or failure, profitability or bankruptcy, operational excellence or status quo. ISO 45001, the new international occupational health and safety (OHS) standard, provides this once-in-a-generation advantage that cutting-edge businesses will quickly utilize. If you are operating in the industrial goods space, you should understand how implementing ISO 45001 will help you achieve and maintain a world-class safety culture that helps protect your employees and your business.

What you need to know about ISO 45001

Safety and health experts from around the globe came together to develop what is being called the ‘gold standard’ in safety and health risk management. The ISO 45001 standard, finalized in March 2018, provides a framework that will help businesses significantly enhance their safety and health programs, reduce workplace injuries and illnesses and dramatically improve employee productivity and quality – which should ultimately lead to increased profitability. ISO 45001 is an international consensus and certification standard for occupational safety and health, and it is also recognized by the American National Standards Institute.

ISO 45001 takes a unique approach to safety and health risk management because it has a greater emphasis on business leadership participation. Under the framework, management teams are tasked with creating, facilitating, maintaining, evaluating and promoting their companies’ safety risk management systems.

ISO 45001 requires worker involvement in the decision-making and evaluation processes. Furthermore, the standard requires businesses to consider the safety risks at the worksite that impact “other interested parties,” which include contractors, vendors, suppliers and even the public, passers-by and neighbors.

ISO 45001 provides specifications and guidance to enhance the performance of your workplace safety program. It was developed to be applicable to any organization, regardless of size, type or industry. Its requirements were developed to ensure that they could be integrated into any business’ management process.

How does ISO 45001 impact businesses with ISO, OSHAS or VPP certifications?

Businesses currently holding other ISO certifications will have an advantage when it comes to implementing ISO 45001. The ISO 45001 standard uses the same Annex SL framework (essentially a template) utilized in ISO 9001 or ISO 14001. As a result, if your business is currently ISO certified, you will be very familiar with procedures related to implementation, documentation and auditing.

The British-based safety management certification standard, OSHAS 18001, is used in approximately 130 countries worldwide. However, with the development and adoption of ISO 45001, it has been determined that ISO 45001 will replace OSHAS 18001, which will expire in 2021.

Businesses that are currently operating as OSHA Voluntary Protection Program sites will also have an advantage when it comes to implementing ISO 45001. As a VPP site, the commitment to workplace health and safety by top management already exists, likely creating a workplace culture focused on minimizing employee injuries and illnesses. ISO 45001 will help these businesses become even more proactive when it comes to employee safety.

What are the major changes with ISO 45001?

With the implementation of the Annex SL framework, ISO 45001 places a greater emphasis on planning, operational support, performance evaluation, continuous improvement, and management and worker participation. ISO 45001 is designed to identify and abate job hazards prior to an accident.

What are the benefits to obtaining ISO 45001 certification?

When implemented correctly, the benefits of achieving ISO 45001 certification are numerous. Using the framework in your workplace can help improve corporate culture, boost cost-savings initiatives, increase worker productivity, enhance product quality, and enhance recognition and reputation among clients and the community. If you choose to obtain this safety certification milestone, you can transform your workplace culture from “correction mode” to “prevention mode” – all while continuing to meet your business goals.

ISO 45001 certification will significantly drive operational cooperation and internal process improvement. You may find that obtaining the ISO 45001 certification will help expand your customer base or market share. Additionally, it is likely that businesses at the top of the supply chain will start to require their vendors and suppliers to become ISO 45001 certified in order to continue their partnerships.

Moving forward towards ISO 45001 certification

The first step to be taken on the ISO 45001 certification journey is to determine if your business wants to achieve great and even world-class safety at your facilities. Next, you should conduct a gap assessment audit, develop an action plan for improvement, eliminate those gaps and provide the onsite resources to successfully complete the ISO 45001 certification audit. Utilizing these steps will help your business meet sustainability goals, improve productivity, increase profitability and enhance corporate image in the minds of investors, clients and/or customers.

Foulke Edwin Fisher PhillipsAbout the Author
Edwin G. Foulke, Jr. is a partner in the Fisher Phillips Atlanta and the Washington, D.C. Metro offices. He is the President of Fisher Phillips Safety Solutions, LLC. Prior to joining Fisher Phillips, Ed was the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. He can be reached at efoulke@fisherphillips.com or 404.240.4273.