Decoding ISO 45001 after 3 years of transition

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In March 2018, the long-awaited ISO 45001 standard for "Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems" was published to replace OHSAS 18001. ISO 45001 v.2018 is the first international OHS standard. With a transition target of three years, 2021 marks the end of OHSAS 18001.  

What are the important points of this standard? What should be remembered? How to simplify the certification process? Some answers in this article.


ISO 45001: a separate standard, on a common basis

This is a new and separate standard, not a revision nor an update based on the previously deployed OHSAS 18001. The overall spirit of the standard itself is new. In fact, OHSAS 18001 clearly stated requirements that were solely focused on the OHS management system, but ISO 45001 goes much further. The standard is not a collection of requirements, it focuses on the OHS culture at the heart of the certification. Ensuring safe and healthy workplaces, avoiding work-related injuries and illnesses and continuously improving OHS performance are the elements expected to be certified to ISO 45001. It is no longer enough to check that a management system exists, but also ensuring that the corporate culture is clearly OHS oriented is as necessary. 


To the delight of multi-certifiers, being ISO 45001 certified does not mean adding a management system to those already in place. Indeed, the standard is based on the same common basis as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 version 2015. The organisation can therefore overlap certain management elements such as its PDCA approach, its processes, or even some of its documented information. OHS is no longer a separate issue, it is an integral part of the certified organisation.


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Leadership in the spotlight

As with these other standards, ISO 45001 places leadership as the cornerstone of the management system. Where OHSAS 18001 spoke only of management commitment, ISO 45001 requires the commitment and involvement of all levels of management and all functions. Among other things, it introduces the need for management to protect any worker who reports an adverse event, hazard, risk or opportunity. In a nutshell, management “no longer just" signs the OHS policy, it must simply embody it.


ISO 45001: what's new

The main novelty due to the use of common core of other ISOs is that the organisation must place itself in its context. In fact, it must determine its internal and external issues, its interested parties (other than workers) and the scope of its management system. The latter is therefore expanded in ISO 45001. Multi-certified companies already comply at least in part with this requirement. But beware, what has been defined for quality or environmental issues will not necessarily be valid or sufficient for occupational health and safety issues. You will have to be watchful and ask yourself the right questions again to check that the context is comprehensive of that of the ISO’s.


The novelty that "everyone is talking about" is the requirement for the organisation to consult and involve all workers and their representatives, if they exist, in decision-making about OHS. OHSAS 18001 addressed this concept but was vague on the subject. It simply asked for worker participation and consultation with subcontractors. ISO 45001 also puts a special emphasis on non-managerial workers, for whom it is required the consultation in 9 of its paragraphs and participation in 7 of its paragraphs. It involves all levels of management by setting out clear expectations and requirements.


The last major change is that the OHS management system is no longer limited to the consideration of risks and hazards, but also takes opportunities into account. It is therefore the responsibility of the organisation to identify hazards and assess the risks and opportunities for OHS. Although this point is also common to other ISOs, ISO 45001 does not mention the SWOT, but mainly takes into consideration the opportunities to improve OHS performance and the OHS management system. As with the context, multi-certifiers will not be able to make do with what already exists. The assessment of opportunities will have to be revised to be accredited with the OHS in mind. In contrast to ISO, where risks and hazards were quickly addressed in the same paragraph, each point is detailed here in a separate paragraph with specific requirements. The standard also takes the opportunity to call for a specific process for opportunities.


More broadly, the ISO 45001 standard finally takes up all the points addressed in OHSAS 18001, adding a few new features but above all developing almost all the points of OHSAS. The paragraphs have been rearranged to include specific expectations and requirements for each topic. This is the case for operational activities, for example.



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How to simplify the certification process?

It is very common that, when faced with a regulatory or certification process, a great deal of administrative work is required to get an exact overview of the situation, centralise data and set new quantifiable objectives. 

This time-consuming administrative burden can be alleviated with a digital tool. The digitisation of processes is THE solution for a worry-free and efficient certification process, bringing you undeniable time savings and work comfort.  Here are the significant advantages of a digital tool:


  • Centralisation and pooling of information on one single platform to avoid redundancy and loss of information
  • Individualised and secure access with specific access rights per profile so that each person at their level can participate in the process
  • Interconnection between the tool and external databases so that each of the company's tools can feed and update each other (CRM, HRIS, LDAP, etc...)
  • Setting up a provisional schedule (e.g. GANTT chart) and performance indicators
  • Feeding the overall action plan
  • Workflow integration to alert each stakeholder in real time of an action to be taken


The digital tool in a certification process is more than a tool, it is a real guide that allows you to review all the chapters of the standard without the risk of omission or redundancy, and this via a structured and intuitive platform.


With the ambition of integrating all stakeholders, including senior management, into OHS processes, ISO 45001 makes the bold bet of instilling a strong QHSE culture in each company. However, it is essential to ensure that employees are properly supported. In order to rally the entire company, a transition process must be accompanied by a real "Change Management" and not just imposed.


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Thibaut GILLES
Thibaut GILLES
Thibaut Gilles est ingénieur QHSE de formation. Après plusieurs années sur le terrain, il est aujourd'hui content Manager chez BlueKanGo, spécialiste des questions HSE/EHSQ Engineer by trade and Content Manager @Bluekango / Ingeniero EHSQ por comercio y Gerente de Contenido @Bluekango/
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