An Occupational Health & Safety Management System, often called an OH&SMS, defines the framework in which the organization cares for the occupational health and safety of its employees. It represents a set of rules, policies, processes, plans and practices for preventing occupational health and safety hazards and minimizes risks in the workplace. OH&SMS is unique for every organization and it must be adequate to the legal requirements, occupational health and safety hazards and business processes applied in the organization. ISO 45001 represents the best practices in establishing, implementing and maintaining the OH&SMS. Its requirements and guidelines help an organization to establish effective OH&SMS and to avoid missing important elements along this way.

Getting to the heart of why ISO 45001 is important

Mitigating occupational health and safety hazards and preventing injuries in the workplace is one of the most important challenges that companies face. Among the biggest benefits of implementing an OH&SMS is enhancement of company’s public image that comes with being ISO 45001 certified. Being certified against ISO 45001 demonstrates that your company belongs among those businesses that cares for its employees’ health and safety. This can bring better relationships with customers, the public, and the community, but it also brings other benefits.

Along with the good public image, many companies can save money through the implementation of an Occupational Health & Safety Management System. This can be achieved through reducing incidents resulting in injuries and being able to obtain insurance at a more reasonable cost. This improvement in cost control is a benefit that cannot be overlooked when you’re making the decision to implement an OH&SMS.

Why is ISO 45001 a good idea for your organization?

There is no doubt that implementation of ISO 45001 brings benefits to the organization. As mentioned before, the number of organizations, both large and small, that have already implemented OHSAS 18001 (which is predecessor of ISO 45001) is already large and still growing. ISO 45001 brings all the benefits of OHSAS 18001, with addition of some new ones. Here are just a few of these benefits:

Improve your image and credibility. By assuring customers that you have a commitment to establish and maintain an occupational health and safety management system, you can enhance your image and market share by reducing the number of OH&S incidents on the workplace and sending a clear message that your organization takes care of its employees.

Improve cost control. One improvement that all organizations are looking for is a reduction of costs. The OH&SMS can help with this by increase rating at insurance companies, while reducing occupational health and safety incidents that may lead to lawsuits and deterioration of the organization’s image.

Use evidence-based decision making. By ensuring that you are using accurate data to make your decisions on what to improve, you can greatly increase the chances that your improvements will be successful the first time, rather than having several unsuccessful attempts. By using this data to track your progress, you can correct these improvement initiatives before they go “off the rails,” which can save costs and time.

Create a culture of continual improvement. With continual improvement, you can work toward better processes and reduced occupational health and safety hazards in a systematic way, in order to improve your public image and potentially reduce your costs. When a culture of improvement is created, people are always looking for ways to make their processes better, which makes maintaining the OH&SMS easier.

Engage your people. Given a choice between working for a company that shows care and concern for occupational health and safety and one that does not, most people would prefer the first one. By engaging your employees to reduce your occupational health and safety hazards, you can increase theirs focus and retention.

In addition to the above-mentioned benefits, the transition from OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001 brings:

  • more clarity on OH&SMS issues
  • enhanced leadership involvement and worker participation in the OH&SMS
  • risk-based thinking for the OH&SMS, as well as for OH&S risks
  • alignment of the OH&S policy and objectives with the strategic direction of the organization
  • integration of the OH&SMS into the business processes of the organization
  • simplified language, common structure and terms.


What are the practical steps to become ISO 45001 certified?

What does it mean to be ISO 45001 certified? The answer to this question depends on the type of the certificate you want to attain. Organizations can get their Occupational Health and Safety Management System certified by certification bodies while individuals can get certified, for example, as ISO 45001 internal and lead auditors. This section provides information on the steps towards the ISO 45001 certification for organizations.

In order to get certified, the organization needs to implement Occupational Health and Safety Management System compliant with requirements of ISO 45001. Once the system is in place, the organization can hire certification body to perform the certification audit to determine whether the organization is compliant with the standard. After the successful audit they need to provide the certificate which testifies to the organization’s compliance with requirements of the standard.

Implementing ISO 45001 standard is a challenging task and the first step is to get the management support for such endeavor. With the top management on board, you can start identifying legal requirements regarding occupational health and safety, define the scope of the OH&SMS and OH&S policy and objectives, identify risks and opportunities and OH&S hazards and define operational controls. There are several mandatory processes that need to be included, and others to be added if the organization finds them necessary.

As part of ensuring consistency of your OH&SMS, you will need to document many procedures and policies that will communicate to the employees what you expect from them in regard to the OH&SMS. The documents can be created internally, or you can seek for external help in form of consultant or documentation templates. 

After the organization establishes the processes and necessary documented information, the system will need to operate for some time to determine whether the system is set up properly and whether some changes are necessary. By operating the OH&SMS, the organization will produce records that will demonstrate that the activities are carried out as planned. These records are necessary for auditing and reviewing your system and to achieve certification.


What ISO 45001 training and certification is available if you’re an individual?

ISO 45001 Lead Auditor Course. This is the most demanding course. It takes four or five days and provides you with knowledge and understanding of the requirements of ISO 45001 as well as the auditing techniques, sampling records and getting evidence during the audit. If the course is accredited, it enables you to perform certification audits on behalf of the certification body.

ISO 45001 Internal Auditor Course. This course usually takes two or three days. Unlike the Lead Auditor course, it doesn’t include a competency test and is the most appropriate for persons who want to perform internal audits within their own organizations.

ISO 45001 Awareness and Implementation Course. There are several courses that provide knowledge of ISO 45001 and how to implement it. These kinds of courses can vary in the length and amount of information provided. They can last from one to five days and include various learning materials, such as e-learning sessions, as a method of teaching the material. Courses like this are the most beneficial for persons who want to get an overview of ISO 45001, or those who will be involved in the implementation or maintenance of the OH&SMS within an organization. Such a course can be more cost-effective than investing in the lead auditor course for those who are involved at this level. There are a number of accredited training organizations around the world where you can gain individual qualifications in ISO 45001.

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