The International Organization for Standardization has finalised ISO 45001, the new international standard Occupational health and safety management systems.

The standard will follow the now familiar Annex SL structure of the 10-clause management system approach that has been rolled out to standardise international standards such as ISO 14001, ISO 9001 and ISO 27001. This allows for easier integration and alignment with other management system standards.

While the final version of the standard will not be available until around March 2018, review of the final draft ISO 45001 indicates that some of its underlying principles are very similar to the harmonised Australian Work Health & Safety legislation, however there are some nuances that should provide additional benefit in terms of an effective WHS Management System.

  • Management Responsibility – The draft ISO 45001 reflects a number of the principles of the current Australian WHS Legislation with ‘Top Management’ having an overall responsibility and accountability for the protection of workers’ health and safety. (Under AS/NZS 4801, Top management were responsible, but they could delegate the accountability.)
  • ‘Worker’ Consultation – ISO 45001 acknowledges the modern workplace with many different employers, defining the term “worker,” – based on a similar principle to our WHS Legislation – to reflect employment situations, contractor arrangements, and even volunteer workers. The active participation of workers is also now required along with the identification of barriers to effective consultation (such as language or literacy barriers, reprisals or policies that discourage or penalise worker participation).
  • Risk Management – The word “systematically” has been included in relation to WHS Risk Management. The Standard requires all risks to be identified considering ‘new’ and ‘emerging’ risks including the psychosocial factors such as workload, work hours, bullying and harassment, as well as the risks associated with the outsourcing of processes and the risks associated with the use of contractors. The management of change element is strengthened in ISO 45001 and requires that an organisation be aware of any new risks that arise from changes, such as new products, processes, services, changes to plant and equipment.
  • Incident – The definition of ‘incident’ has been broadened to now include a note that an incident can occur without a nonconformity, recognising that things can be working as they should but an incident can still occur.
  • Improvement – Continual improvement, which is a recurring activity to enhance performance, now explains that continual does not mean continuous. This clarifies that the “recurring activity” does not to take place in all areas simultaneously and go on forever, but that it needs to be tailored to suit different situations, and may stop and start.

At this stage AS/NZS 4801:2001 has not changed and remains the current industry standard in Australia. It is premature to speculate as to whether ISO 45001 will be adopted in Australia as a replacement of the current industry standard.

Please contact QRMC for more information.