Health and safety: setting a new standard

The new global standard for health and safety, ISO 45001, has finally arrived. We've spoken to two companies that have already embraced it.

ISO 45001, the long-awaited successor to OHSAS 18001, has been a long time coming. With attitudes towards occupational health and safety varying considerably across the world, its development took years of discussion, not least on the issue of worker participation and consultation. But agreement was reached, and ISO 45001 was published on 12 March 2018. 

Eleven companies have hit the ground running, with BSI confirming that they complied with the new standard on day one, becoming the first organizations in the world to do so. They include construction and infrastructure company, Morgan Sindall, and printer manufacturer, OKI UK.

Compliance journeys

How did these companies manage to comply instantly with ISO 45001? The answer is simple: they prepared for it, adopting its requirements, and were audited to it by BSI, in advance of its publication.

Martin Worthington, Director of Safety, Health, Environment and Quality at Morgan Sindall, explains, “Because we knew ISO 45001 was coming, and could tell from drafts of the standard largely what changes it would bring in, we started working towards it over a year ago. We also joined BSI’s early-adopter pilot scheme, which proved invaluable.”

Worthington says that, like its predecessor, ISO 45001 sets out all the requirements for creating a successful health and safety management system. “But even 12 months ago you could have guaranteed that certain themes – leadership, worker engagement, consultation – were going to feature in the final version, and they do.”

For Morgan Sindall, a renewed focus on engagement was a key part of its certification journey. The standard looks at the issue in terms of organizational behaviour and company culture, and at the effectiveness of internal communications, which is measured to see if key health and safety messages are getting across. Worthington says it has led Morgan Sindall to ensure it has a systematic process for consultation and participation with workers.

“We have engagement with our people through our mental health service, for example,” he says. “We don’t just communicate facts about the service to them – a one-way process. We also ask them to give feedback on specific issues, which constitutes consultation, and prompts feedback and participation from them.” 

Morgan Sindall also benefits from the shared ‘high level structure’ of ISO 45001 with ISO 9001 (Quality) and ISO 14001 (Environmental Management), which means the three standards share similar terms, headings and format. “It makes it quicker and easier for us to manage all three standards,” he says.

Migration options

Organizations that currently hold certification to OHSAS 18001 have three years to migrate to the new standard. Stephen Griffiths, BSI’s EMEA Product Champion for Occupational Health and Safety, says they have three options:

  1. Undertake a one-off migration audit 
  2. Migrate progressively through existing OHSAS 18001 surveillance visits (with at least one additional day, or more for larger or more complex organizations)
  3. Wait for a full re-certification visit, whenever that falls due over the next three years.

“Each company’s circumstances will be different, so there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to migration,” says Griffiths. “The assessment time, cost, and budgetary impact of each option can vary, so it’s important they weigh them up carefully. Their BSI assessor will be able to help them do this.

Healthy start

OKI UK’s compliance journey has been different. The office printer manufacturer, which employs 150 people at its plant in Cumbernauld, has never held OHSAS 18001, so ISO 45001 is its first recognized standard in occupational health and safety.

“With the increasing focus on health and safety at work, we realized we needed a system,” explains Alan McBride, Senior Engineer, Compliance and Quality for OKI UK. “We felt certification would not only help the mental and physical wellbeing of our staff, but also bring commercial and reputational benefits, and protect the business and its executives legally.”

OKI UK began in May 2016 by conducting a Gap analysis against a draft version of ISO 45001, and joining BSI’s pilot scheme. “The main challenges lay in understanding what the standard was likely to require, and then meeting them by maintaining sustained activity over a period of time,” says McBride.

Like Morgan Sindall, the company enjoyed board level support for, and involvement in, the new standard – a vital ingredient in light of ISO 45001’s requirement for leadership and senior management commitment to creating a strong health and safety culture. “Senior management was fully hands on,” says McBride, adding that worker consultation has also been key: “We run a health and safety forum and involve staff at the policy stage.”

A game-changer

BSI’s Griffiths sums up: “Whether you’re migrating from OHSAS 18001 or applying for the first time, ISO 45001 is a game-changer. It offers huge benefits to your business, helping to provide a safe and healthy workplace, reducing work-related injury and ill-health, and ultimately enhancing your organizational resilience.”

To show how ISO 45001 can be implemented for maximum benefit, BSI offers a training package for senior and middle management.  For more information, call +44 345 086 9000 or email