ISO 45001 – How Will an H&S Management System Reduce Risk?

[fa icon="calendar"] Wed, Jan 11, 2017 / by Sean Salvas


Is Your Organization Ready for New Health and Safety Regulations? The New ISO 45001 Standard Will Be Published Next Year

Coming soon to a workplace near you – ISO 45001, a new set of standards detailing how organizations of all sizes should put in place occupational health and safety management systems. The International Standards Office (ISO), whose work transcends that of national regulators, intends the forthcoming standard to be a valuable addition to the health and safety regulations that already reduce workplace injuries and illnesses.

Such a reduction is badly needed. Despite the tightening of health and safety regulations in recent years, the International Labour Organization (ILO) says that, globally, someone dies from a work-related accident or disease every 15 seconds. Such tragedies are taking an enormous toll on families, society and the economy, with 2.3 million deaths a year, as well as more than 300 million non-fatal incidents.

When Will ISO 45001 Come into Effect?

Given what’s at stake, the negotiations over the detail of ISO 45001 have been protracted – all the more so since more than 70 countries have played an active part. Final publication of the standard is not expected until December 2017, although a series of drafts will be available between then and now as the final detail is negotiated, giving organizations the opportunity to plan ahead for changing health and safety regulations.

Importantly, ISO 45001 isn’t intended to be a proscriptive standard for how organizations should manage occupational health and safety on a day-to-day basis. Rather, it provides a framework through which managers can plan what is needed in order to minimize the risk of harm – from health-related issues or an accident at work.

In other words, the standard requires organizations to address and control occupational health and safety risks with systems that meet the standard in place,  but does not spell out the mechanics of doing so. This should mean the standard can be adopted by any organization, large or small. SMEs with low health and safety risks may need only very simple systems, while larger and more complicated organizations may require more sophisticated controls.

Nor will ISO 45001 be a legally binding health and safety regulation – it’s a voluntary tool that organizations have the option to adopt as they seek to combat occupational health and safety risks.

How Does ISO 45001 Work with Existing Health and Safety Regulations?

The good news for those organizations that want to do so is that the new standard has been designed to complement other regulations in this area, rather than create conflicts or omissions. For example, many organizations will already be compliant with the OHSAS 18001 standard on health and safety management systems, as well as standards managed by the ILO. The ISO says the requirements of ISO 45001 will be consistent with these parallel structures.

The new standard has also been designed with similar ISO system standards on quality and environment in mind, so that organizations with experience of applying these high-level structures should feel very comfortable with the approach taken by ISO 45001.

Nevertheless, professionals working in health and safety functions will need to get to grips with the details of the new standard, once it is finally published, and spend some time working out how to comply with it within their own organizations. That may take some time, so it makes sense to begin now, well ahead of the December 2017 publication date, particularly in order to assess the resourcing required for compliance at an early stage.

The appetite to do so appears to be keen. In one recent survey, more than two-thirds of organizations (69%) said they were keen to adopt ISO 45001, though there was some concern among smaller businesses about the practicalities involved. ISO, however, insists its “plan-do-check-act” model will be adaptable to the circumstances of even the smallest organization – and that the principles underlying its health and safety regulation are applicable to all.


  • The new ISO 45001 standard on health and safety regulation will be published next year.
  • The standard sets out how organizations should put systems in place to manage occupational health and safety, not the mechanics of doing so.
  • ISO 45001 is aimed at organizations of all sizes.
  • ISO 45001 will dovetail with existing standards in this area including the OHSAS 18001 standard and ILO regulation.
  • Health and safety professionals need to start preparing for the new regulation now.

Find Out Risk Management Best Practice in Key Operational Areas, Including Environmental Health and Safety. Download: The Proactive Quality Guide to Embracing Risk

Proactive Quality Guide to Embracing Risk

Sean Salvas

Written by Sean Salvas

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