Construction worker wearing safety harness and safety line working at hight

Setting the highest standards for safety and health at work

Published: April 28, 2022
Construction worker wearing safety harness and safety line working at hight

OH&S must be a priority to support employees, which is why global standards, a culture of open discussion, and measuring improvement are so important.

One of the most important things an organisation can do is provide a safe and healthy working environment for its employees. Joint estimates from the World Health Organization and International Labour Organization (ILO) show that around 2.3 million people globally die annually as a result of work-related diseases and injuries, while there were also 374 million non-fatal injuries and illnesses. Risk factors are many and varied, ranging from long working hours to exposure to air pollution and noise, showing just how vital it is to take the matter seriously.

World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2022, on April 28, is designed to raise awareness of this importance. Organised by the ILO, this year’s theme is ‘Act together to build a positive safety and health culture’. It is a reminder to comply with Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) regulations and to use OH&S management systems to enable this. A key focus this year is building a workplace culture in which OH&S is considered a core value, and is integrated at all levels and departments. A supportive OH&S culture means anyone from leadership to employees, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders have the opportunity to openly discuss any issues or concerns about health and safety. It is all for the benefit of the people in the organisation, their families and the broader community, as well as for the success of the organisation itself.   

One way that many organisations choose to promote safe systems of work is to align with ISO 45001 – a standard that offers a comprehensive way to promote and structure OH&S efforts through every corner of a business and its supply chain.

The role of ISO 45001

ISO 45001 is the key international standard for OH&S risk management and outlines the requirements of a comprehensive OH&S management system, as well as ways to measure and improve the effectiveness of this system.

An OH&S management system is a framework of controls surrounding any factors that could affect the health and safety of workers, with a goal of preventing any injury, illness or death in the course of work. ISO 45001 helps organisations to frame its OH&S policy and objectives, to promote a structured approach to the identification of hazards and risk controls, and to fulfill its compliance obligations. It helps organisations to build frameworks to evaluate their OH&S performance, as well as to ensure that workers take an active role in OH&S. ISO 45001 also helps to improve the ability to respond to regulatory compliance issues, to reduce the cost of incidents, operational downtime, and insurance premiums, while improving employee workplace satisfaction.               

ISO 45001 replaced the AS/NZS 4801 and OH&SAS 18001 standards in 2018, and is the only OH&S standard that organisations can be certified to. The standard can be applied to any organisation’s OH&S management system in any industry, and may be used in part or in whole. Following the requirements in full enables external audits to be conducted if a business is aiming for certification. In an indication of how rapidly the new standard has been adopted, over 195,000 ISO 45001 certificates were issued globally in 2020, up from around 38,600 in 2019, and nearly 12,000 in 2018.

Broader benefits of ISO 45001

Complying with ISO 45001, and in particular, achieving certification, shows an organisation’s commitment to the health, safety, and wellbeing of its workers. This effort is important to current and future employees, ecosystem partners, customers, investors, regulators and more, and builds a positive reputation for the business. In fact, some organisations will decline to work with organisations that are not compliant to this standard.       

Adding to the benefits, complying with ISO 45001 can also support an organisation’s Environmental, Governance and Social (ESG) agenda. For example, implementing an efficient and effective OH&S management system demonstrates good governance, while also helping with the social aspect of ESG, ensuring that the wellbeing of people in the organisation, in the supply chain, and the aligned community is prioritised.

The broader ISO 45001 family

ISO 45001 is part of the ISO 45000 family of standards and guidelines, which are all worth paying attention to as part of building a robust OH&S approach. These include:

  • ISO 45002: Expected to be published this year, this offers general guidelines for the establishment, maintenance and continual improvement of an OH&S management system in compliance with ISO 45001. While ISO 45001 outlines what organisations need to do, this document gives guidance and examples on how. 
  •  ISO 45003: These guidelines focus on psychological health and safety at work, supporting the inclusion of mental health factors and controls into an OH&S management system compliant with ISO 45001.

  •  ISO 45004: Currently under development, these guidelines will help with OH&S management system performance evaluation – an important tool for creating a culture of continual OH&S improvement and certification.

  •  ISO PAS 45005: These free guidelines support safe working in the era of COVID-19, helping organisations understand how to manage the risks arising from COVID-19 in the workplace.

  •  ISO 45006: Under development, these guidelines are focused on preventing and managing infectious diseases in relation to the workplace. The document covers how to prevent exposure to infectious diseases that could present a risk to the health and safety of workers and significantly impact an organisation’s ability to operate.

Every effort counts

In addition to supporting the safety and health of employees and the surrounding community, taking OH&S seriously is important for the longevity and success of organisations and economies. At RTP, we believe that workplace health and safety should be integral to every action and decision in the business. If an organisation aligns to ISO 45001 standards and its family of guidelines, it is setting itself up well for healthier, happier employees, better business outcomes, and a good reputation.

For more information on ISO 45001 training, please click here 

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