health and safety

Back in 2013, a committee of participants gathered to discuss bringing in a new Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems Standard – ISO 45001. More than 65 countries across 6 continents are involved in the ISO PC283 Committee creating the standard, with ASSE as administrator of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to American National Standards International (ANSI).

ISO45001, inspired by OHSAS 18001, is being designed to help organizations of all sizes and industries, to continually improve their worker’s health and safety. Not just in the workplace but also risks to the supply chain workers. Any organization that will follow the standard will be required to consider internal and external issues, including the needs and expectations of their investors. This is especially important when the risks identified could impact the financial condition and performance of the organization.

ISO 45001 standard’s basic premise is the proactive actions of identifying occupational health and safety risks, before any incidents occur, and putting controls in place to minimize their causation factors. With these proactive actions and controls in place, the standard is expected to reduce the large numbers of workplace injuries and illnesses around the world. Currently, globally a worker is killed due to a work-related injury, or disease every 15 second, and 153 people are suffering from a work-related injury. For organizations, yearly the cost of these injuries is a huge burden, not just financially but in the terms of manpower as well.

For example, the garment fires in Bangladesh, in 2012. Investigations of these fires discovered the basic provisions of emergency exits did not exist. On top of this, the emergency exits they did have were locked due to worry of theft, blocking the way out for the workers caught in the blaze.  Fire extinguishers were not provided either, workers had to jump out of windows to avoid being killed in the fire. In total around 117 workers died in the fires. Following on from this a committee in Bangladesh was formed to create safety procedures to avoid such events again. These procedures are included in ISO 45001 approach to managing the risks to workers.

These deaths and injuries are a result of numerous systems failures within organizations. Not just the failure to identify hazards, but also considerations such as the process for proper risk assessment, commitment to compliance and the required maintenance. Lack of employee engagement in identifying these risks and participating in the compliance are also part of the failures which can contribute to risks.

improve health and safetyIn summary, ISO 45001 will work on implementing a strong standard to improve the work safety in organizations and their global supply chains. It will also help reduce insurance costs and create a more positive, trusting culture within organizations. The measures of ISO 45001 should address concerns at work that can lead to long-term health issues and absence. Concerns can include those such as worker stress that gives rise to accidents as well. Concerns raised by both managers and employees/workers.

At this moment in time, ISO 45001 is in the advanced Draft International Standard stage, with plans to become an international standard by late summer 2017.