ISO 45001’s discussion of ‘Top Management’ – the person or group of people who direct or control an organisation at the highest level – requires a visible and demonstrable involvement in WHS. No longer can the responsibility for safety be delegated to the safety professional: it needs to be owned by top management and they need to demonstrate a commitment to WHS.

The new Occupational Health and Safety Management System Standard, ISO 45001:2018 applies world-wide, and while still voluntary, its framework of requirements is considered the international best-practice standard. In practical terms, it is similar to the current Australian Standard, AS/NZS 4801, but it includes a number of inherent improvements for the management of WHS within its restructured framework of Management System requirements. It also represents the first time there has been international agreement on a safety standard.

In the standard, the discussion of top management’s demonstration of leadership and commitment comes before the discussion of a WHS Policy (inferring that the signed Policy Statement is not enough). The opening requirement in Section 5.1 – Leadership & Commitment

is that Top Management takes overall responsibility and accountability, followed by another dozen requirements, including the incorporation of WHS in the overall management system.

This ‘top-down’ approach to managing WHS drives top management to demonstrate rather than delegate. Top management should be seen by all workers as being actively involved and demonstrating their commitment. Management are required to be true safety leaders in terms of protecting workers and improving WHS performance.

Clear and consistent leadership is required, and it must be seen across all areas of the organisation.

These requirements mirror the requirements of AS/NZS ISO 9001:2016 Quality Management Systems and AS/NZS 14001:2015 Environmental Management Systems, in which Top Management are required to demonstrate their commitment to Quality and Environmental management.

Arguably the most important requirement of top management is to define (and communicate) the responsibilities and authorities for the various roles within the WHS Management System, and to hold these various roles accountable. ISO 45001 qualifies this statement with a note detailing that while responsibility and authority can be assigned, the ultimate accountability lies with top management.

ISO 45001 has also strengthened its position in relation to Management Review to drive Continual Improvement. The Management Review process is another top management responsibility. Our article in next month’s Insight will explore this in detail and correlate it with the WHS Legislation’s Due Diligence requirements.

Please contact QRMC for more information.