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ISO 45001: collaboration is key

Planning for the release and introduction of the new global occupational health and safety management standard ISO 45001 was dealt a blow recently when it failed to achieve the two-thirds majority required for publication from the participating members of the standards committee. Though it’s understood that 71% voted in favour and 28% against, with 1% abstaining, the rules say that a standard cannot be adopted if more than a quarter of national standards bodies are opposed, which means that it is unlikely to be released until early 2017.

This delay will no doubt raise questions from those opposed to more voluntary standards being introduced. Hugh Robertson, Senior Policy Advisor for Health and Safety at the TUC, recently published an article in which he raised concerns that “the primary aim of ISO 45001 is to ensure that there is a compliant health and safety management system for the employer which can be audited and that fits in with other ISO standards, rather than actually ensuring the safety and health of workers”.

Will the introduction of this new standard help to reduce deaths or work related injury or illness? We have heard arguments for and against. Many employers, employees, safety and risk management professionals agree that with a robust and effective management system that is comprehensive and includes collaboration and participation from all levels of the organisation, there is a very good chance of success in helping to reduce deaths and work related injury or illness.

This new standard requires top management to demonstrate ownership and commitment, aspects which in the past many have said are missing, affecting how health and safety is viewed in the workplace. Businesses and organisations of all types and size need to ensure that they manage all potential risks to survive and grow in today’s ever changing world – as we all know, good, effective occupational health and safety management can help to do this.

ISO 45001 emphasises a risk based approach to managing occupational health and safety. This is not a new approach – those of us who have worked in health and safety in different types of organisations will have used similar methodology and ISO 45001 does not conflict with more traditional routes to compliance.

IIRSM is represented on the UK committee and our views have been made known at each meeting during the consultation period. We believe the participating committee members have not only made it easier to link the draft standard to other updated standards (ISO 9001 and ISO 14001) but it will also remove any ambiguities that emerged when these updates were released.

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