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Ahead of the game: ISO 45001

Progress indicator

Published: 18 Jun 2018

The British Standards Institution and CBRE GWS EMEA offer some advice and share the challenges faced by early adopters of the world’s first global health and safety standard.

With the publication of ISO 45001:2018, efforts to migrate from BS OHSAS 18001 (Occupational health and safety management systems) to the new standard have begun in earnest worldwide.

“[ISO 45001] sets best practice in health and safety and because it’s global. It’s going to drive up standards, not just in safety, but I think importantly, and excitingly, in physical and mental health as well,” said Kate Field, Global Product Champion, Health and Safety at the British Standards Institution (BSI).

She adds that good occupational health and safety brings tangible benefits to the business.

“It demonstrates your business’s social responsibility by providing decent and safe work. In a world where there is a very competitive market for talent, this provides real opportunities for driving up retention, recruitment and productivity.”

Eighty-two clients of BSI have achieved compliance to the new OHS standard since it was published on 12 March. These organisations share several common characteristics. Firstly, there is a recognition that being early adopters of the new standard has potential reputational and commercial benefits. Secondly, the majority of them are certified to ISO 9001, which means they are familiar with the high-level structure of ISO management system standards. Thirdly, there is commitment and proactive engagement with ISO 45001 from top management.

The global certification body notes two common challenges faced by organisations migrating from BS OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001.

“BSI was part of the expert committee that developed ISO 45001 and we knew that Clause 5 on leadership and worker participation would potentially create some challenges,” Field said, but added that overall, organisations are stepping up to drive participation from non-managerial staff.

“I think more of a surprise is around competency, which is Clause 7.2. The competency was part of 18001, so it’s not a new requirement. But we are seeing that organisations are not effectively ensuring the competency of their workers and are not retaining suitable documented information as evidence of that competency.” 

It is important to retain a balance because health and safety isn’t about creating vast amounts of paper and bureaucracy, but you do need to have evidence of competency.

Kate Field, Global Product Champion, Health and Safety at the British Standards Institute (BSI)

To address these issues, Field suggests getting front-line staff to participate in risk assessments of their jobs. She encourages simple actions such as leadership taking time to talk to staff while performing their jobs. Alongside this, organisations could adopt software solutions to keep an online record of competency. “It is important to retain a balance because health and safety isn’t about creating vast amounts of paper and bureaucracy, but you do need to have evidence of competency,” she said.

For companies that are certified to OHSAS 18001, she advises early planning and to identify migration training needs and a qualified auditor to deliver the proper implementation before the three-year migration period ends.

Companies that want to get involved with ISO 45001 but are not certified to OHSAS 18001 shouldn’t feel overwhelmed. If they already have ISO 9001 or ISO 14001 in place, they are at an advantage. “One of the exciting things about ISO 45001 is it is aligned to the same high-level structure as other ISO standards. Organisations that already have those standards will be familiar with the common structure and the common language and the common requirements,” Field said.

“I think other organisations who maybe aren’t familiar with those other management standards need to understand that it’s not as scary as it might seem… With occupational health and safety there’s often a number of legal requirements that organisations will already be working to, and they can use a lot of those existing processes and systems to support the requirements of 45001.”

She advises getting an external body to conduct a gap analysis to set out an action plan to adopt the new standard. 

Continuous improvement

The new standard can help organisations in their ongoing pursuit of continuous improvement, which Field notes is critical in today’s world as innovation, agility and foresight are becoming necessary pillars of success.

“ISO 45001 recognises this and encourages organisations to seek out opportunities to continually improve, particularly using technology, innovation and new knowledge,” she said. “I think ISO 45001 also goes a step further than ISO 9001, recognising that continual improvement is about the culture of an organisation.”

CBRE GWS EMEA is among the first companies globally to become certified to the standard. The company was assessed by the British Standards Institute (BSI). Health and safety forms an integral part of the everyday business of the real estate services firm.

“We felt it was important for us both operationally and commercially to be in the first branch of companies that reached the standard and we were confident we’d do it,” said Richard White, QHSE (Quality, Health, Safety, Environment) Director at CBRE GWS EMEA.

“We have an integrated management system approach, which is certified to ISO 9001 for quality, ISO 14001 for environment, and now ISO 45001 for health and safety,” said Lisa Lane, Standards & Assurance Director at the company. “For us, because managing H&S [health and safety] risk is already embedded through this integrated approach… it was very, very straightforward.”

One area of focus for CBRE GWS EMEA involved ensuring that top management were familiar with the new terminology associated with the standard. Attention was therefore paid to further developing the understanding of risks and opportunities within the wider business context.

“It’s about harnessing all of those ‘gut feelings’ you have about the risk and opportunities your come across in your day-to-day business – those associated with your customers, supply chain, stakeholders, and many other elements. Recognising what ‘risks and opportunities’ and ‘business context’ mean, and what that looks like in practice, were key areas we worked on,” Lane said.

CBRE GWS EMEA tied in its QHSE programme with the overall business objectives and new business strategy in 2018. In relation to the assessment, “it was therefore straightforward to be able to demonstrate and see a link between where we’re going as a business and how our QHSE programmes can support that business growth and business risk management,” White said.

The second area of additional focus was to enhance engagement by ensuring employees associate their day-to-day roles with health and safety. This included health and safety (H&S) briefings in team meetings, involvement of risk champions in communicating specific H&S messages and introducing new ideas.

“We talked to our employees and said we know it’s just what you do every day and it can be taken for granted, but sell what you’re doing because what you’re doing is really great,” White said. This perspective encouraged employees to identify evidence and present them to auditors.

He emphasised the key role of leadership in supporting the desire to become a day one adopter of the new standard. “We involved a number of business leaders in the certification audit to demonstrate to the assessors that our leaders lead health and safety programmes, can relate these to the context of the business and how it all works in reality.” 

Top advice

The team’s top tips for organisations working to achieve certification to ISO 45001 are: integration, simplicity and ownership.

Organisations would benefit from integrating the standard into existing processes. “Don’t introduce procedures solely to meet the requirements of the standard. Look at the business operating model, look at what you do well and make sure that you reflect this,” Lane said.

White added: “Make sure what you’re doing is for the right business reasons first and then, secondly, that it reflects the standard. Really try to avoid inventing things for the sake of it.”

“There’s no point in having overly long, complex documentation,” he said. “Keep it really simple. Keep it straightforward, so people can understand it. It makes life far simpler down the line.”

Lane emphasised making people feel confident and responsible for the management of health and safety risks “because ultimately they’re the gatekeepers, they’re the people that can promote the good things and stop the bad things from happening”.

Make sure what you’re doing is for the right business reasons first and then, secondly, that it reflects the standard. Really try to avoid inventing things for the sake of it.

Richard White, QHSE (Quality, Health, Safety, Environment) Director at CBRE GWS EMEA

Companies will also benefit when management own health and safety. “When management know what the risks are, how to prioritise them, and how to continually improve risk management over the course of the business cycle,” White said. “True operational ownership of health and safety, specifically in terms of 45001, will make life a lot simpler for those companies looking to become certified.”

Having a good relationship with their assessor, BSI, is also a priority for CBRE GWS EMEA.

“It’s very important to us that we have [an assessor] that is robust, will challenge us and not just provide a tick in the box… [BSI] will challenge us and that’s a good relationship and a good place to be,” Lane said.

The company plans to take its health and safety agenda forward with a strong focus on employee engagement and promoting key health and safety messaging with clients and suppliers.

“At the moment we are expanding... in key sectors. So we’ll be making sure that we’re able to drive the same standards that we have as part of our certification process into the new areas of business,” Lane said.  White added that embedding the company’s structures and beliefs into the behaviours of new employees will also continue to be a priority.

“One of the things we’re looking at as a team currently is finding new ways to further develop employee engagement. Technology like virtual reality and augmented reality as part of the training programme is under review to find innovative and exciting ways to train our people in the right, safe behaviours,” said White.

The new ISO 45001

CQI and IRCA members can download a free copy of ISO 45001:2018 – Understanding the International Standard. This exclusive report explains what the new Occupational Health and Safety Management System Standard means for you.

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