ISO 45001 Update - Weekly Compliance Digest

March 03, 2017

In this edition of the Weekly Compliance Digest, we will do something different and provide an update on ISO 45001, rather than giving an update on a specific regulation. We especially want to give more information about the expected publication date.

ISO 45001 – Occupational health and safety

What is it?

Most EHS professionals are already familiar with ISO 45001, but here’s a reminder: ISO 45001 specifies requirements for an occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system, with guidance for its use, to enable an organization to proactively improve its OH&S performance.

The objective of ISO 45001 is to become the international standard for OH&S management systems by replacing OHSAS 18001, which is currently the de facto standard, even though it is not an ISO standard. OHSAS 18001 is an internationally applied British Standard for occupational health and safety management systems.

ISO 45001 is developed by a committee of occupational health and safety experts, and follows the high level structure approach that is being applied to other ISO management system standards, such as ISO 14001 (environment) and ISO 9001 (quality). It will take into account OHSAS 18001, the International Labour Organization’s ILO-OSH Guidelines, various national standards and the ILO’s international labour standards and conventions.

What it isn’t

There is sometimes confusion around ISO 45001, and what organizations can achieve with it. ISO 45001 does not provide best practices that help to prevent incidents and improve safety. Rather, it specifies the requirements of a occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system. Here is a list from ISO of what ISO 45001 is NOT:

  • ISO 45001 does not state specific criteria for OH&S performance.
  • ISO 45001 is not prescriptive about the design of an OH&S management system. An organization’s OH&S management system should be specific to meeting its own needs in preventing injuries and illnesses, ISO says. Any type of system may be capable of being in conformity with the requirements of the standard, provided it can be shown to be appropriate to the organization and is effective.
  • ISO 45001 does not specifically address issues such as product safety, property damage or environmental impacts, and an organization is not required to take account these issues unless they present a risk to its workers.
  • ISO 45001 is not intended to be a legally binding document, it is a management tool for voluntary use by organizations that want to eliminate or minimize the risk of injuries and illnesses.

What is next?

The publication date of ISO 45001 has been repeatedly delayed. The best current guess is sometime in the November 2017 – June 2018 timeframe. We’re giving a range of months rather than an exact one because: 1) We want to be conservative given the previous expected publication dates; 2) The final publication date will depend on whether the second draft international standard (DIS2) is approved.

Regarding item #2, National Standards Bodies must vote on DIS2 and approve it, sometime around May-July of 2017. If DIS2 is approved, a meeting of international delegates working on ISO 45001 taking place in Malaysia on September 18-23 could finalize ISO 45001, which could be published in November 2017. However, if DIS2 is not approved, a final draft international standard (FDIS) stage would be required, and the publication date of ISO 45001 could be delayed to Q2 2018 according to the latest ISO 45001 update by the BSI. It’s also worth noting that the official ISO 45001 webpage shows an expected publication date of February 2018.

Finally, when ISO 45001 is published, OHSAS 18001 will be likely withdrawn and organizations with OHSAS 18001 certification will be given a three-year migration period to move to ISO 45001.

For more background on the progress on ISO 45001, see also the articles from IOSH (Meeting brings ISO 45001 ‘closer’) and IOSH magazine (ISO 45001 back on course).

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