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Why companies with IR and workforce trust issues should be concerned about ISO 45001

Tuesday, 4 September, 2018 - 08:00
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Whilst there are many subtle differences between ISO 18001, AS/NZS 4801 and ISO 45001, there are a number of key changes which will potentially impact organisations, particularly with regards to worker participation and consultation, leadership and commitment as well as outsourcing, according to Mario Machado, national practice leader – WHS for Aon Risk Solutions.

“Overall there shouldn’t be too may impacts to businesses, although the new requirements associated with workers participation may cause some anxiety in workplaces with precarious industrial relation issues or where there is a low level of trust between management and employees,” he said.

“Overall, the intent is to create an environment where workers and managers work together in making the right changes.”

Machado, who was speaking ahead of an SIA webinar on ISO 45001 – getting ready for the new standard for OHS management systems on Wednesday 5 September, explained that participation and consultation have separate definitions in ISO 45001 and he said participation is defined as involvement in making decisions while consultation refers to seeking views before making a decision.

“This includes engaging health and safety committees and workers representatives where they exist,” said Machado.

“Clearly while the concept of seeking involvement from workers is good for safety, the explicit requirement to seek consultation from workers in making decisions carries some risk, particularly in organisations with precarious industrial relations climates.

“This is something which the local release of 45001 by Standards Australia’s Technical Committee may require further clarification to suit our local need.”

Machado also said that while standards 18001 and 4801 detail the need for commitment via the development of an OHS policy, ISO 45001 outlines that top management should demonstrate leadership and commitment. 

“This is by far one of the most important changes with 45001 and the concept of leadership places a positive obligation of top management to actively support, direct and lead safety across the business,” he said.

“This is certainly a change all safety professionals should be embracing.”

Machado said the leadership inclusion to the standard is “the most exciting change” to the standard as it has the potential for organisations to initiate a whole different conversation around safety and to actively implement leadership programs to support the rollout of the standard.

“The key benefit is that the roll out of this standard offers an opportunity for businesses to take a fresh look at their systems and improve them where required,” he said.

The concept of outsourcing is also new to 45001, according to Machado, who said the criteria state that organisations should ensure that outsourced functions and processes are controlled.

“It remains unclear how far this will be applied (depending on the context of the organisation and the scope of the system),” he said.

“This may certainly pose a challenge for organisations that completely outsource, for example the manufacture of some of its products to third party manufactures.”

Machado explained that there are a number of other key changes and impacts associated with ISO 45001:

  • Understanding the context of the organisation: ISO 45001 has more elaborate needs associated with organisations understanding the needs and expectations of workers and other interested parties, and this should be considered when developing and determining the scope of the safety management system.
  • Risk-based thinking: While the concept of risk is not new to AS 4801, ISO 45001 expands on the concept of risk-based thinking requiring organisations to think beyond risks but also consider opportunities in the concept of OHS. “This is certainly new to ISO 18001. The definitions and clever use of risk is woven into much of the standard,” said Machado.
  • Management of change: While the concept of change is detailed in standards 4801 and 18001 within consultation and risk assessments, 45001 outlines a need for organisations to establish processes for the implementation and control of planned temporary and permanent changes that impact OHS performance. “This is much more elaborate than existing provisions in 4801 and 18001,” said Machado.
  • Internal audit: While not entirely new, ISO 45001 is very specific in terms of the requirement for internal audits as opposed to 4801 which simply outlines a need for organisations to establish, implement and maintain an audit program.
  • Continual improvement: While the concept of continuous improvement is certainly a requirement in both 4801 and 18001, Machado said 45001 has a whole section on continual improvement with specific requirements associated with ensuring the system is improved to ensure suitability, adequacy and effectiveness.

The OHS system approach applied in ISO 45001 is founded on the concept of Plan-Do-Check Act (PDCA), according to Machado, and he said this concept is an iterative process used by organisations to achieve continuous improvement based on four steps:

1.      Plan: Determine the risks and opportunities, establish OHS objectives and processes to deliver results in accordance with the policy

2.      Do: Implement the processes as planned

3.      Check: Monitor and measure activities and processes in line with OHS policy, objectives and report the results

4.      Act: Take action to continually improve OHS performance.

“My main advice is for safety managers to embrace the changes with an open and curious mind,” said Machado.

“While most safety practitioners have the capacity to review their own systems against the standard, my recommendation is to engage a third-party specialist consultant to undertake the review.

“Finally, and probably most important, all safety practitioners should start socialising the new changes within their organisations. Use this change to initiate a new conversation,” he said.

Machado will be speaking at an SIA webinar on ISO 45001 – getting ready for the new standard for OHS management systems at 2.30pm (AEST) on Wednesday 5 September 2018.