3 min

How to have a safe and compliant working place

Every year, nearly 2.3 million people die as a result of work-related accidents or diseases globally. The impact is huge: in addition to the suffering that affects people involved, it also causes early retirements, absenteeism, increased insurance premiums costs for companies and it has a negative impact on the economy. According to the US Department of Labor, work-related accidents and diseases cost the country $250 billion a year.

The ISO 45001 standard, published in March 2018, helps companies around the world reduce the burden of work-related accidents and illnesses. The aim of ISO 45001 – Occupational health and safety management systems – is to prevent injury and ill health to workers, and to provide safe and healthy workplaces. According to David Smith, chair of the project committee that developed the international standard, ISO 45001 will create better working conditions around the world. “Businesses need to ensure they manage all their risks to survive and to thrive,” he said in an interview for the ISO blog. “OHS is a key aspect, which every business has to manage proactively.”

Interested in ISO 45001 for your organization? Here are five steps to get you there:

1. Understand the standard

According to ISO, the standard aims to provide “a framework to improve employee safety, reduce workplace risks and create better, safer working conditions, all over the world.” It conforms to ISO Annex SL, which means it follows the same structure as the other newly developed or updated ISO standards; if you’re familiar with ISO 9001, for example, you’ll be at home with ISO 45001.

2. Start with analysis

“The road to safety begins with an analysis phase,” says Arto Nikula of Kiwa Finland, who belongs to the Finnish Standards Association work group that provided comments and suggestions for the development of ISO 45001. He suggests starting with a historical analysis of the injuries that have happened: only by having a clear picture of where you have been can you plan your improvement path. Analyzing your own organization’s record will also enable you to benchmark against the industry and set targets later. Next, look outside your organization and analyze the relevant legal and other regulatory requirements. In addition to national regulations, there are also industry-specific regulations to consider.

3. Plan and execute risk assessments

Once you’ve gathered all the information, you can plan a risk assessment. “According to several studies, investments in work safety pay back multiple times over,” says Nikula. “The same risks that cause work accidents cause also material losses, other accidents, claims, poor quality and so on. Good risk management is very profitable, because realized risks directly affect the bottom line.” The first step is hazard identification: identify the hazards and risk factors that could potentially cause harm, in every area of your organization’s activity. Next comes evaluation: how significant are the risks? Where do they apply and to whom? Finally, you can begin the risk control phase: determine how to eliminate the hazard or at least control the risk.

4. Define policy and set targets

Armed with in-depth knowledge of your situation, past performance and existing risks, you can define your health and safety policy, set targets with metrics for measuring progress, and plan how to meet those targets, making improvements at the organizational level that ultimately have a global impact. When you define your targets, make them relevant, achievable and clear. And remember to engage the company’s leadership. “ISO 45001 adds an important requirement; top management has to demonstrate its leadership and commitment, by taking accountability for the effectiveness of OH&S,” explained health and safety expert Alan McInnes on the Agility Systems blog.

5. Get started

The ISO 45001 standard is here, so it’s time to dive into implementing it. But you’re not on your own, as Nikula explained: “At Kiwa, we can help you by assessing your present situation and giving you guidelines on what to do to improve. Kiwa Finland can conduct an ‘ISO 45001 gap analysis assessment’ that shows where you need to focus, and we have several tools you can use to improve health and safety, such as the HSEQ-assessment and the Green Card® assessment.”