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New global health and safety standard published

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A new global standard for occupational health and safety management systems is set to reduce work-related accidents and illnesses across the world, commentators say.


ISO 45001, which replaces OHSAS 18001, was published by the International Organisation for Standardisation on 12 March after nearly four years in the creating.

It requires organisations which adopt the standard to have proportionate safety and health management systems to prevent injury and ill health, extending from their workforce right through their supply chains.

Those close to the standard say it brings hopes that the global death toll of 2.78 million workers due to accidents, could be lowered.

ISO standard committee chair, David Smith, said: “It is hoped that ISO 45001 will lead to a major transformation in workplace practices and reduce the tragic toll of work-related accidents and illnesses across the globe.”

Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at IOSH, welcomed the standard’s stronger focus on leadership.

“ISO 45001 means more focus on leadership and worker participation as well as ensuring the system takes into account the ‘world’ the organisation operates in and the internal and external factors affecting it – known as its context,” said Jones.

“It means that top management must take a visible, directing role and be actively involved in the system’s implementation and ensuring its integration with other business systems.”

Tea pickers, Sri Lanka. The ISO standard will require companies to prove management of health and safety in their supply chains. Photograph: iStock/Bartosz Hadyniak

Dave Parr, head of audit and technical services at the British Safety Council, said that clauses that address procurement and management of contractors in the new standard was a “massive step forward”: “It never ceases to amaze me how an organisation can be really mature and have a good safety management system and yet will allow contractors on the premises who are a million miles away from the standards of that organisation,” he said.

Jones agreed, citing the need for the standard in the context of the development of extended and complex supply chains and growth in migrant and vulnerable workers. “ISO 45001’s emphasis on health and safety management in supply chains should mean that contracting, procurement and outsourcing are more responsibly managed, potentially saving many lives,” he said.

However, the TUC warned against any tokenistic use of the standard. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The TUC believes that having a health and safety management system is important, but it must be more than pointless paperwork.

“What makes a workplace safer is removing hazards, controlling risks and ensuring good worker involvement.”

Organisations certified to OHSAS 18001 have a three year transition period to adapt to the new standard. Denmark-based toy manufacturer LEGO is preparing to make the change. System manager at LEGO, Sofka Ane Brændgaard, said: “Being certified according to ISO 45001 will demonstrate that we take the health and safety of our employees, and all those working on behalf of LEGO Group, seriously.”

ISO 45001: 2018 on the ISO Standards website here
T
UC Guide: Using the new health and safety standard in the workplace here 

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