It may seem ironic that with all the standards set by ISO (International Standards Organization) for a variety of industries such as manufacturing, energy systems and the environment, there has never been a standard for health and safety management systems.
This is all about to quickly change though when delegates from more than 60 countries come together to develop the first ISO global Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems standard (OHSMS), which will help companies better manage the occupational health and safety of workers around the world. This new global framework, ISO 45001, will likely be adopted within the next year.
I have the privilege, along with my Haley & Aldrich colleague, Mike Pardus, to help develop the U.S. position for this standard. As delegates to the U.S. Tech Advisory Group (TAG) of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), Mike and I recently participated in a meeting at Google headquarters to work on the U.S. perspective, which will be shared with the larger international community when the global delegates convene in the upcoming months.
Once approved, ISO 45001 will serve as a guideline for health and safety management systems in many countries and is likely to become legislated as the de-facto standard in others.
Given that this new global standard will become part of the business norm, regardless of whether you choose to adopt it or not, it’s important for companies to stay abreast of the latest developments in its creation. Some ASSE Technical Briefs that provide good information include:
- "The Rise of ISO 45001: A New Global Occupational Health and Safety Management System Standard" (March 2015)
- "The Rise of ISO 45001: A New Global OHS Management Systems Standard" (January 2015)
- "Proposed ISO 45001 Standard Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems" (April 2014)
More importantly, many companies may ask what this new standard means for them and why they should care. Below are two key reasons:
1. Better protection in the workplace: Poor safety conditions at a workplace put everyone at risk: the workers, the company, stakeholders, and customers. In today’s global, connected marketplace, even a company with a strong policy can be negatively impacted by accidents involving partners, suppliers, manufacturing plants, or acquisitions. As we’ve already seen, highly publicized workplace accidents can also have a detrimental impact on a company’s brand, even if the accident occurred at the site of a subsidiary, manufacturing plant, or supplier. Even if you have an existing health and safety management system, you should assess the new global standard and consider adapting your policies and procedures to comply with this soon-to-be established global industry framework.
2. A consistent system across the supply chain: A health and safety problem with a supplier could disrupt the flow of goods or services and negatively impact your business. Because of this, many companies require their vendors to adopt stringent health and safety management systems. This trend is only expected to increase once ISO 45001 passes. A consistent global standard is just what companies need to protect their workers as well as their brand reputation, supply chain, and future growth.
What do you think about this upcoming global standard? Share with us in our comments section or contact the author.