PS: Why does the world need a standard like ISO 45001?
Ken: Similar to what occurred with environmental issues and management, it has been recognized that on a global scale OHS issues and management are not treated with the same regard or approaches between nations. Particularly with the case of multinational businesses, there is a practice to take their operations—especially manufacturing type—to countries where OHS laws and regulations are lax or nonexistent, and where people are plentiful and will work for low wages without concern for their safety and health.
This was seen clearly in the 2011 clothing factory fire tragedy in Bangladesh, as well as with other global disasters before and since that resulted in substantial numbers of worker deaths and injuries. These issues, situations and the ongoing globalization of business support the need for an international standard for OHS management systems.
PS: Do you envision ISO 45001 being used as an auditing tool? If so, how might that work in practice?
Ken: Absolutely, in fact, it is included in the introductory information that ISO 45001 is available for use as the basis for certification by external parties (e.g., audits are strongly implied). Essentially, it would work the same as it works currently for ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 management systems. The organization develops and implements its system, hires a third-party certification body and the audit process ensues.
The draft standard contains requirements for internal audits to verify that the system has been developed, implemented and maintained, and is effective. The process to conduct audits does not change much regardless of the subject matter. The changes or differences come in the audit objectives, criteria for evaluation, scope and related factors, but the general mechanics are consistent and typically follow (especially for an ISO-based management system) the ISO 19011 auditing guidelines.
PS: Will groups be interested in certifying against the standard as has been done with other international standards? If so, how might that process work and what benefits would it produce?
Ken: I expect many organizations to be interested in gaining recognition through third-party certification. Organizations that are currently certified against the OHSAS 18001 OHS management systems standard likely will need to gain ISO 45001 certification, as the British Standards Institute has indicated that OHSAS 18001 will be replaced by ISO 45001 once it is a final standard. Also, by making 45001 an ISO-promulgated set of specifications, it should gain more acceptance in the international community.
The process for certification will likely be the same as that used for ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certifications (generally following the ISO 17021 requirements). That has been the proven and generally effective approach used for OHSAS certifications already, so I do not see a need to go in a different direction for this new standard.
Benefits of certification include the independent view and evaluation of an organization’s system, which involves a determination of general conformity to the standard with regard to the effectiveness of the system and its component processes to achieve the goals and intent of the organization’s policy and the ISO 45001 standard.
This external review allows for observation of the OHS management system from fresh eyes that also identify weak areas that can be repaired, as well as opportunities to enhance areas where processes or the system are working well but can be made better.
The ultimate benefit of certification and, generally, external evaluations is to ensure that the system works to continually improve the organization’s management of OHS risks and opportunities, and to prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities.
PS: What effects is this standard likely to have across the global supply chain?
Ken: The supply chain effects will likely infiltrate on a slow, evolutionary pace. The general progression of a standard’s use in a supply chain has gone along these lines: once the primary organization establishes its management system, it begins to push out the system elements to its chain through contractual requirements and incorporation of relevant specifications during work-related planning and operational activities.
A similar set of actions will occur for the OHS management system. Typically, the prime organization does not require that the supply chain develop and implement management systems, but it will ask in requests for proposals, for example, whether the supplier organization maintains a system and is certified. Sometimes, the presence of a management system may be a determining factor when awarding contracts. My hope, however, is that supplier organizations will understand the usefulness of an OHS management system to manage and improve their OHS compliance and capabilities to avoid or eliminate associated risks, and will implement a system regardless of their customers’ requirements.
PS: Some small entities may look at a standard like this and say, “This standard isn’t for us.” How might you respond?
Ken: This has been an ongoing concern among the members of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG), as we have been reviewing and offering our input on the development of ISO 45001. It is the intent of the TAG, as well as the ISO PC 283 (the international committee that will eventually approve and release the standard) to ensure that ISO 45001 is amenable to small and medium enterprises. We are getting there but still have some work to do with the draft international standard to make it more palatable to small and medium enterprises.
In the meantime, I would tell a small or medium enterprise that the standard provides the foundation for a management system, and helps organizations plan for and structure their own approach, but it does not dictate how to create and implement an OHS management system. Using ISO 45001 will provide guidance as well as requirements to any organization, but the details of how to fulfill those requirements is left up to the organization itself. That means a small or medium enterprise can create a system that works best within its structure, limitations and aspirations.
In fact, the standard requires that organizations look for the best ways to incorporate OHS management system elements within their existing business/operational structure and systems, rather than creating parallel or competing processes. This provides businesses with an opportunity to improve and facilitate their overall approach to working and fulfilling their missions, rather than acting as a hindrance.
PS: ISO has been successful in gaining global buy-in to its 9000 and 14001 standards. Will ISO 45001 work in concert with those standards?
Ken: With the most recent updates to ISO 9001 and 14001, both standards have been revised to follow a standardized structure known as the high level structure (HLS). ISO 45001 is being developed using the HLS as well. HLS also provides standardized language for select portions of ISO management standards. It is ISO’s stated intent that the HLS is meant to provide for greater facilitation and ease of aligning the three types of management systems, providing organizations with easier pathways to integrate those systems together as well as into the overall business/operational structures.
With this approach, ISO 45001 will help gain global buy-in as the ISO has done with 9001 and 14001. Many of the organizations currently using a quality management system and/or EMS, also tend to have some kind of OHS management system implemented. This alone should facilitate buy-in, and the formalization of the standard at the ISO level will likely enhance that buy-in among organizations worldwide.
PS: Any predictions or insights on how senior business executives will view this standard?
Ken: I have experienced the entire range of views about using ISO standards and the management systems approach among senior leaders. In my earlier years, it was almost across-the-board rejection of or resistance to management systems. The typical excuses were that systems require too much documentation, they do not improve the organization’s management of relevant issues (quality, environment, OHS); they represent a financial burden; or that employees will never change or go along.
Since then, an evolving view exists, especially as there are generational changes in larger organizations and due to the overall globalization of business. Today, senior leaders generally accept that the management systems approach is a net positive for their businesses, as long as it is applied and managed appropriately.
The greater challenge is among leaders in public organizations (e.g., governmental agencies). These leaders are still not fully on board with the management systems approach, often for some of the same long-cited excuses of private organization leaders.
The added excuse in the public domain is that management systems are not made or meant for governmental operations. Since we have had nearly 30 years of international management systems standards (going back to ISO 9001 in 1987), the resistance is generally less among leadership to the management systems approach. However, there is an undertone of growing resistance to the explosion of standards developed within the past 30 years.
If leaders are provided with appropriate information regarding the benefits of the management systems approach, how it helps them to manage their operations more efficiently and effectively, how it enhances their abilities to achieve their organizational missions and goals, and how it supports profitability, the resistance tends to fade. I see this as no different for ISO 45001.
PS: What can OHS professionals be doing now to help frame and shape those executive perspectives?
Ken: As I noted, education, communication and information are what leadership needs now, as the standard is developed and once it is released. All of these standards require that the organization’s personnel receive applicable, appropriate training and communications that enhance their awareness of and competence to implement and support continual improvement of the management system. This includes an organization’s management and leadership.
They need the awareness elements sooner than the general worker population, since leaders will need to facilitate the system’s development, implementation, maintenance and improvement from its beginnings.
Kenneth (Ken) A. Clayman is an associate with Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., a management consulting firm. He is a member of the U.S. TAG advising ANSI on the development of ISO 45001.
PS: What will be some challenges of implementing ISO 45001 for companies? What about for OSH professionals?
Amy: With any management system, the biggest challenge is connecting the dots. For organizations that already have a safety management system (e.g., OHSAS 18001, ANSI/ASSE Z10), the concepts are ideally the same, which will ease the transition, but we must recognize that some of the language has changed.
For example, ISO 45001 uses terminology document information and OHSAS 18001 uses records. A learning curve exists for applying the different language terminology for those who currently have a management system. Another challenge will be determining how a global organization efficiently and effectively integrates a safety management system across the board in various applications while the system remains feasible and effective.
PS: You work with numerous clients. What are you hearing from them about ISO 45001? What is the buzz in the marketplace?
Amy: Safety professionals are excited and enthusiastic about this standard. It is one of the biggest game changers in the profession in the past 20 years. If you look back in history, this is the fourth attempt at a safety management system standard. This ISO standard is long overdue, and the safety profession and business industry are welcoming it.
This standard is causing more organizations to talk about moving away from a compliance base to a management/risk base. This standard will also have a big impact on globalization of sustainability and the supply chain.
PS: Any predictions on how ISO 45001 will be received by the business community?
Amy: The business industry will welcome the standard. For global companies, this is an outstanding tool to become more efficient and effective across their organizations.
PS: Similarly, what will small business entities be able to do with this standard? Is it scalable to their needs?
Amy: The verdict is still out on this. I personally do not feel at this time that this standard is friendly to small- and medium-size businesses. A document will need to be created to interrupt this standard for those businesses.
PS: What should OSH professionals be doing to prepare themselves and their companies for this standard?
Amy: Safety professionals need to get management system savvy. Start educating yourself on the ISO 45001 standard and understand the potential impact. One way is to take a look at the draft international standard to get a sense of the direction.
If your company has implemented other ISO standards (9001, 14001), start meeting with those individuals. It is important to start talking to and educating your organization leaders about this standard sooner rather than later.
PS: Can you share some things about the process of developing an international standard that readers might not know or might find surprising?
Amy: Anytime you get more than 50 people representing all types of organizations, whether large, small, academic, consultants, labor groups and auditors, you will have differences of opinion. It can be challenging to agree on positions; factoring in the international differences adds another layer. The key is to focus on the concepts. Not everyone will get what they want to see in the standard, but one thing we agree on is that this standard is a must have.
Amy Timmerman, M.S., CSP, CHES, is environmental health and safety manager, Sage Products LLC. She is a member of the U.S. TAG advising ANSI on the development of ISO 45001. Amy is also a member of ASSE’s Healthcare Practice Specialty and a professional member of ASSE’s Northeastern Illinois Chapter.