(QSE story 4/6) OH&S : the benefit of ISO 45001 training

Voluntary standard ISO 45001 has now been published. And there’s no time to lose in terms of training! It's a good opportunity for OH&S managers in organizations to strengthen their role as an expert among their colleagues. Instalment 4 of our QSE series.

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Voluntary standard ISO 45001 has now been published. And there’s no time to lose in terms of training! It’s a good opportunity for OH&S managers in organizations to strengthen their role as an expert among their colleagues. Instalment 4 of our QSE series.

On 12 March 2018 the “S” in “QSE” emerged in its definitive form with the publication of the new voluntary international standard ISO 45001 to go alongside the now well-established ISO 9001 (Quality) and ISO 14001 (Environment). For an OH&S manager, “the level of requirement in ISO 45001 represents a much bigger leap than that involved in switching to the 2015 version of ISO 9001 for a quality expert,” warns Frédéric Debyser, trainer with AFNOR Competencies. Hence the importance of training! One of the advantages of training? Being able to ascribe a concrete meaning to the vocabulary used, in particular as regards the notion of risk which is different from that used by OH&S managers. This notion will not necessarily be the same for any two organizations and will vary depending on an organization’s context (read the first article in the series).

Another benefit: having a good understanding of a new concept introduced in the standard, the “risks and opportunities” approach (read our third article). OH&S generally requires risk analysis to be performed based on the organization’s activities. The new standard requires an additional risk analysis related to the intended outcomes in terms of OH&S. “For example, if the OH&S manager identifies that the fact that there is no budget available severely restricts appropriate equipment provision and infrastructure maintenance, the new standard will require the organization to add actions to its budgetary process to prevent this risk. This would immediately enable the necessary budget line to be mobilized,” says Debyser. A similar scenario could be a deterioration in the social climate of the workplace which makes achievement of the intended OH&S outcomes uncertain. In this case, dialogue with employee representative bodies, development of management skills and formal or informal recognition arrangements may be integrated into HR processes. Provided that it is properly understood, the standard makes organizations better equipped to react.

ISO 45001, a means of achieving strategic outcomes

“In our training sessions, we stress the fact that implementation of ISO 45001 is a means of achieving other strategic outcomes for the organization, in addition to economic targets such as cost reduction and investment redirection,” explains Debyser. For example, certain organizations demonstrating a commitment to OH&S beyond the strictly legal requirements have fast-forwarded the development of Lean approaches and generated a feeling of belonging to the organization among their employees, as well as improved workspace appropriation.

It will also be in managers’ best interest to receive training since adoption of the standard entails a change in their positioning, involving decompartmentalization of occupational health & safety duties. The HSE officer will no longer be perceived as the person responsible for the OH&S process. Each business process will now integrate the expected OH&S outcomes. HR managers will consequently need to work on this new managerial culture. Purchasers also will have to learn to avoid introducing any additional source of risk for workers to the organization. They will have to verify that external providers also adopt good risk-prevention practices.

ISO 45001, a framework providing methods and tools

With ISO 45001, the expert status of OH&S managers is strengthened. They will, in a sense, “wear a different hat” as providers of methods and tools for their colleagues as part of their renewed commitment to OH&S. And the fact that the duties are decompartmentalized also results in more available time.

Another change brought by the standard is that OH&S managers will now speak the same language as quality and environment managers, since ISO 45001 has a structure identical to ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. This is the so-called High Level System (HLS). “Quality experts typically strive to achieve rigorous application of the system whereas HSE officers are more likely to act with immediacy, for example instructing an employee to wear his/her personal protective equipment without necessarily having the reflex to track down the reasons for this malfunction,” exemplifies Debyser.

On the one hand, through improved dialogue with HSE and OH&S managers, quality managers will be able to learn to use very simple tools such as site safety inspections and safety discussions which, in the framework of an integrated management system, can be used for subject areas other than safety. On the other hand, HSE and OH&S managers will become more aware of the fact that an operational irregularity is necessarily linked to something other than lack of personal commitment. This becomes an exchange of good working practices which ultimately serves to raise the organization’s performance!

> Purchase the ISO 45001:2018 standard in English… 

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