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Drive Occupational Health and Safety in the Workplace with ISO 45001

Posted by Oscar Combs in Aerospace, Alloys and Metals, Automotive, Blog, Chemical, Construction, Distribution, Food and Beverage, Laboratories, Logistics, Manufacturing, Medical, Oil and Gas, Public Agencies, Technology 22 Nov 2019


All organizations, regardless of size or industry, share a common responsibility – to ensure their employees stay safe on the job. In 2017 alone, the United States Department of Labor reported a total of 5,147 fatal work injuries. Although the number of fatal injuries in the U.S. is decreasing, even one death is too many. The fight against workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths began with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), which requires employers to provide safe and healthy workplaces. From this act, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established to ensure the protection of workers. How can employers meet the requirements of the OSH law? ISO 45001:2018, the occupational health and safety management system standard, is a tool organizations can implement to establish a health and safety program.


What is ISO 45001?

ISO 45001:2018 is the new occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This standard helps organizations of any size in any industry reduce workplace injuries, illness and risks by promoting a safe and healthy workplace for their employees and visitors.


“ISO 45001 is ultimately about changing the culture in companies,“ states Oscar Combs, Sr. Consultant of The ISO 9001 Group. “Companies should work to implement a good, sound safety culture in their workplace.”


ISO 45001 has officially replaced OHSAS 18001, which was a British standard for occupational health and safety. The OH&S standard was brought into the ISO family as ISO 45001, in order to establish a global health and safety management system. Organizations that are currently certified to OHSAS 18001 will have 3 years to transition to the new standard. This means that OHSAS 18001 certified organizations will have until March 12, 2021 to comply with ISO 45001 requirements. Learn how our certified OH&S consultants can make the transition from OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001 smooth.


Key Elements of ISO 45001:2018

Organizations that are new to ISO 45001, or have previous experience with OHSAS 18001, should be aware of the key elements of the new standard:

  • The adoption of the Annex SL structure. This is the same high-level structure shared by other ISO standards, such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. This means that with the right expertise, ISO 45001 can be integrated into existing ISO management systems.
  • Emphasis on Top Management’s leadership and commitment. Building a culture of safety within an organization starts with a strong commitment, clear responsibility and the accountability from those in leadership.
  • Establish an OH&S Policy and Objectives. Organizations will need to establish a documented OH&S policy, which reinforces their commitment to provide safe and healthy working conditions, meet legal requirements, eliminate hazards, reduce OH&S risks, consult with and involve workers and continually improve their ISO 45001 management system. The OH&S Policy will provide the framework for the measurable objectives.
  • Proactive Hazard Identification. Companies will need to identify hazards in all aspects of their business – from workloads, to work hours to the culture of their organization. Hazards have the potential to cause illness and ill health, or have the potential to cause harm. This includes reviewing both routine activities, such as maintenance, and non-routine activities that could impact their workers, contractors and even visitors.
  • Assessment of OH&S Risks and Opportunities. Once hazards are identified, companies will need to assess their occupational health and safety risks and opportunities. Risks are defined as the likelihood a work-related hazard, event or exposure could occur, and the severity of the resulting injury or illness. Opportunities are defined as circumstances that can lead to the improvement of OH&S performance.
  • Eliminate hazards and reduce OH&S risks. ISO 45001 breaks down the levels of controls to be taken to eliminate hazards and reduce OH&S risks. An example of a control may include conducting a Job Safety Analysis (JSA), where jobs are broken down to the task level, hazards are identified at each step and the safest method of performing the task is determined.
  • Personnel Training and Competency. Workers will need to be properly trained and will need to demonstrate the competency that they can properly identify OH&S hazards and address the risks associated with their work, and the workplace. The appropriate competence should be determined for each role; workers may even assist in determining the competence needed. They should have the capability to remove themselves from situations where serious danger could occur.
  • Incident reporting, nonconformities and corrective action. Organizations will need to establish, implement and maintain processes to determine and manage incidents and nonconformities. This includes the reporting of incidents, investigating and taking appropriate actions. The sooner incidents are reported and investigated, the sooner hazards can be eliminated and OH&S risks can be minimized.
  • Management of Change. Changes that impact occupational health and safety performance will need to be controlled in a planned manner, whether they are planned temporary or permanent changes. This includes adding new or changing existing products, services and processes, including workplace locations, the organization of work, working conditions, equipment and more.
  • Control of the procurement of products and services. Processes will need to be in place to determine, assess and eliminate hazards and reduce OH&S risks of products and services before they are brought into the workplace. This includes assessing products, hazardous material, substances, raw materials, equipment and services. Organizations are also responsible for the occupational health and safety of contractors. Examples of contractors could include maintenance, construction workers, security personnel and consultants.
  • Emergency preparedness and response. Organizations working to implement ISO 45001 will need to establish, implement and maintain processes in the event emergency situations occur. This includes preparing for emergency situations, providing training on the response plans and even testing and exercising the response plan periodically. The emergency response plans will need to be communicated to contractors, visitors, government authorities and the community. During the development of the planned emergency response activities, the needs and capabilities of the identified interested parties should be taken into account.
  • OH&S Internal Audit Planning and Program. An internal audit will need to be conducted at planned time frames. ISO 45001 internal audits will determine if the OH&S management system meets the requirements of the standard, the requirements of your organization and whether it has been effectively implemented and maintained.

Benefits of ISO 45001

Organizations that achieve ISO 45001 certification experience several benefits, including:

  • Meet customers’ requirements for ISO 45001:2018
  • Eliminate hazards and reduce OH&S risks
  • Reduce company and employee insurance costs
  • Improve company reputation
  • Reduce incident rates
  • Establish a healthy and safe workplace.

The Impacts of Poor Health and Safety

Organizations that lack adequate health and safety programs face devastating and costly consequences. Here are common impacts that organizations that have a poor health and safety culture can expect:


  1. Loss of Lives. Unsafe working conditions increase the opportunity for workplace injury, disease, illness and worse – death.  There is no greater loss, than the loss of a life.
  2. Decreased Productivity. When employees are out due to an illness or injury, workplace productivity decreases. This may cause other employees to be pulled away from their core responsibilities to help fill in. The employees who are filling in may need to undergo task specific training, which results in a further loss of productivity.
  3. Costly Compensation, Claims and Legal Fees. Several legal costs come along with employees getting injured on the job. These may include paying workers compensation, compensating for sick time and paying higher insurance claims depending on incident rates. Companies may even get hit with hefty OSHA fines.
  4. Loss of Potential Business. An increased incident rate reduces an organization’s ability to qualify for work. Tommy Duplantis, Sales Consultant of The ISO 9001 Group, offers his perspective on the impact incident rates may have on potential business opportunities.

“Potential clients would not want to do business with companies, or hire contractors, that bring potential risks to a worksite,” Duplantis shares. “When I visit facilities, the first thing I notice is their sign displaying the number of incident free days. What number would your potential client see?”

How to Become ISO 45001 Certified

Organizations of any size, in any industry, can become ISO 45001 certified. The following are steps organizations can take to start the journey to ISO 45001 certification:

  1. Ensure adequate resources are in place to implement ISO 45001, including time and team members.
  2. Perform an analysis of your organization’s operations, and identify gaps to ISO 45001 requirements.
  3. Write required ISO 45001 management system documentation, including an OH&S policy, objectives and procedures. Our ISO 45001:2018 documentation package is a cost-effective solution to jumpstart your implementation.
  4. Involve leadership and workers in implementing the ISO 45001 management system.
  5. Perform an ISO 45001 internal audit. This may require employees undergoing additional internal auditor training.
  6. Successfully undergo a certification body audit. Watch our webinar for key strategies on how to pass your certification body audit, stress-free.


ISO 45001 is more than just a management system standard. It is a powerful tool that organizations can implement to drive a positive change in the health and safety of their workplace. Together, organizations around the world will be able to create better working conditions for their most important asset – their employees. Interested in ISO 45001 certification? Our occupational health and safety consultants can help. Contact us to speak with a management system expert.



3 tips for preparing your team to undergo a certification body audit.

Victoria Ontiveros | Project & Office Coordinator 

Victoria focuses on creating quality educational content that provides value to current and potential clients. By collaborating with members of leadership and sales, she is able to develop informative articles that answer common questions and connect with current trends.

Victoria earned her Bachelor of Science in Sociology with an emphasis in communications from Texas A&M University.

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